“The name is the end of discourse.” 

                                                                    - Michel Foucault.

What is in a name, other than signifying cancellation? Asha Zero’s paintings are testaments to this question. Even if read as a name, Zero as a moniker would nonetheless signify a vacuum, an indecipherable title with no discernable gender, politics, ethnicity, or socio-economic standing. Much like a brand, Zero interrogates the anonymity of the subject, the value of deception, where information is ubiquitous, and schizophrenia combines with anxiety to construct a benchmark for the here and now. From this basis, Zero appropriates from the media, creating trompe l’oeil painted surfaces that not only resemble collage, but also resign to the conceptual underpinnings of collage. By confronting painting under the rubric of collage, Zero embraces erasure, interference and artifice as the ‘norm’; an indifference-in-difference prompted by Marcel Duchamp, subverted with tremors of Andy Warhol, echoing Richard Hamilton.

Paying homage to the tradition of collage set forth by inter-world-war protagonists such as Kurt Schwitters, Hana Höch, John Heartfleld, Raoul Hausmann, Aleksandr Rodchenko, and Gustav Klutsis to ‘name’ a few, Zero steals once mediated imagery, now weathered and torn, discarded, annotated with graffiti and a plethora of other graphic elements. These sources are all forms of mass communication that once used to conceal yet now somehow reveal. Zero’s voice is a palimpsest, the only way to arrive at something relevant is to combine elements together, to somehow recreate or simulate the notion of ‘otherness’.  Apathy being an agent of the ‘norm’, its symptom being the loss of difference, Zero’s cut-up images are a sign of the times, products of the system, conveying a message of Zeitgeist in Babel. It is within this post-global village landscape where Zero’s portraits declare the status quo staggering upon a bricolage. Zero’s paintings contribute more than just the sum of all parts, unfixing signifiers, stirring up turbulence, all developed from over-communication and an addiction to the media. There is no turning back, only surrender.

"It is only through difference that progress has been made. What threatens us right now is probably what we may call over-communication – that is, the tendency to know exactly in one point of the world what is going on in all other parts of the world. In order for a culture to be really itself and to produce something, the culture and its members must be convinced of their originality […] We are now threatened with the prospect of our being only consumers, able to consume anything from any point in the world and from every culture, but of losing all originality."

                                             - Levi-Strauss.

Zero draws from the conventions of the avant-garde, and the ongoing movements of the underground, including Dada, Punk, and current Street Art and Lowbrow trends. With the world in a state of Information overload, supporting a materialist existence that continually references itself, feeding off of itself, subconsciously inviting one to consume ever more to the point of critical mass and terminal identity, Zero exposes a sales agenda so pervasive that it almost does not need the consumer anymore.

Ideas being objects, with advertising, branding, and corporate intentions signifying the contemporary ideological canon, Zero juxtaposes and superimposes surfaces, concepts, and other communications, treating them in the same manner as objet trouvé, reverse-engineering commonplace broadcasts and points of contact, such as advertisements, magazine spreads, headlines, signs, billboards, posters, album covers, fashion photography and the like. From this archaeological perspective, the numerical digit Zero once again becomes a suitable replacement for the artists name, developing into a mechanism; a cut-up identity, constructing paintings that immediately communicate the primary concerns of collage: intertextuality, appropriation, pastiche, superimposition and juxtaposition.

‘We’ are the subjects of Zero’s portraits, Burroughsian cut-ups – disposable, interchangeable, random, yet somehow structured, serial, and patterned. Where humans once consumed media, it now consumes ‘us’. Zeroed-in, Zero’s work tolerates the extraction of small amounts of barely intelligible bits of information. This information is omnipresent across the painted acrylic surface, but has lost practically all its agency, meaning, and path of ‘origin’. Yet, despite being bereft of a suitable history, Zero’s cut-up images say something powerful about the murky opposition between historicism and futurism:

“When you cut into the present the future leaks out.” 

                                                                                       – Burroughs.

In this sense, Zero’s paintings take advantage of the value-of-deception inherent to popular culture and the mass media, sampling glitches and iterations from mediocrity, re-remixing scraps that have already been Xeroxed, copied, or stolen. Rendering the here and now in bits and pieces, hyphens and splices, Zero’s paintings dictate impossible exchanges through the continuous, looping sedimentation and erosion of information, in-turn generating new, hybridized and mutated forms of meaning. Furthermore, Zero ‘hacks’ the familiar, the commonplace, evading efforts to decipher or extract any fundamental or conclusive meaning.

The world is no longer binary; it isn’t root-like with hierarchies and oppositions. It is now anarchic, a rhizome, where the subject, the self, the one, or whatever analogy there may be becomes an indecipherable cipher within a hum of cellular automata. In a world that has lost all sense of the real, Zero’s paintings numb as much as they stimulate. Paintings become topologies that have been scratched and scrambled, simultaneously multiple and singular, depicting everyman, nothingman, overman; effectively combining the ability to differ and to defer.

“Who’s the parasite and who’s the host?” 

                                                                                       – Burroughs.


This text was first published in the 4th issue of Kolaj Magazine, (Canada, June 2013), titled "Asha Zero: Who's the Parasite & Who's the Host - A Profile by Shane de Lange". It is the latest iteration of a series of negotiations and meditations on Zero's work from the past decade.

Copyright © Shane de Lange, 2013.

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