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Plonk, bottled and sold

Plonk, bottled and sold – but what does it mean? wonders Michael Howe

Motherlode by Anya Gallaccio, at the Thomas Dane Gallery, Frieze Art Fair 2007

Anya Gallaccio’s Motherlode consists of six bottles of six distinct Zinfandel wines housed in a pine or redwood box. A limited edition of 400, the resultant family of wines does not represent a work of viticulture and is not intended to be comprehended as such.

Produced in collaboration with winemaker Zelma Long, Motherlode is the result of an invitation by San Francisco’s New Langton Arts to create a site-specific work in Sonoma County, California. Gallaccio harvested a tonne of grapes from five different appellations running the length of the county, with the addition of one appellation blend. The six wines represent a portrait of the Sonoma County landscape. Five bottles are sealed with wax the colour of the soil where its grapes grew, while the blend’s seal is blue.

At first glance, Motherlode appears to be a critical essay on the relationship between art consumption and market (revealed by high end consumables such as wine). It is assumed that the work could be experienced sensually, by consumption of the wine (which might lead to an unfortunate drop in the market value of its vestigial carrying vessels), or through an understanding of its rules of production.

By producing a consumable, Gallaccio would appear to have little truck with viewers of her career who privilege her installation works which cannot become commodity (such as 1993’s Blue, where she positioned salt bricks on Bournemouth beach, allowing the waves to dissolve the intervention overnight) over work which is robust, portable and therefore exchangeable.

Gallaccio’s theatre of decay, chance and change is fused with works or activities such as Couverture (1994), a chocolate-painted room that decayed over time, or the direct casting of organic entities, such as trees, in time-resistant bronze – a process which requires the destruction of the cast subject in the creation of a doppelgänger.

The editions of Motherlode would not, therefore, appear to be commodity as critical object, although the issue of ‘gettability’ (Gallaccio’s construct, not mine) would seem a factor in the context of some readings of her career. Motherlode cannot be made to seem an inadvertent critique of stable (as opposed to fugitive) art production, because ultimately the work holds both meanings.

Resume: Corking work, but will it age well?

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