Jonathan Ching Flunks Marine Biology Test

BY MADS BAJARIAS | But seriously, Jonathan Ching's enigmatic "Whale" at blanc, which shows a derailed locomotive resting on its side does look a bit like a beached whale, especially if you squint real hard. Its cowcatcher—the grill-like device meant to scoop up cattle and other objects from the track to prevent derailment—does resemble baleen, the filter that a whale uses to sluice krill into its mouth. Yes, the locomotive is big, like a whale, obviously. But I guess the similarities end there unless we delve deeply into the nitty-gritty of whale biology and trainspotting (but who has the time?). Maybe these coal-fed locomotives are becoming rarer, like some cetacean species? Nah, that's stretching the comparisons. A far better way to approach this "Whale" is to look at it in the same way that Rene Magritte painted a pipe and wrote "This is not a pipe" below it. Ever since Magritte's pipe in his iconic "The Treachery of Images," artists have time and again used this trick to label objects with paradoxical names or captions either as:

1. a kind of conceptual joke
2. to prove a point about the nature of images ("It's not a pipe, but an image of a pipe!)
3. to explore deep connections beneath the facade of the obvious.
4. hint at the artist's own inner struggles.

The possibility of genuine nonsense cannot be ruled out. Maybe there is no clear and satisfying reason for the choice other than it pleases the creator.

The 20th century showed that everything is relative, yes, and obscurity has its own rewards. You can go ahead and call something anything you want—the question is whether you can get away with it. This "Whale" (not a whale?) is part of Ching's "Whale Songs for the Disenchanted" at blanc artspace until September 1.

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