b. 1984 Melbourne/Naarm, Australia . Lives and works Melbourne/Naarm, Australia

Michael Georgetti : Desire Machine
Vault Magazine, 2020 
Louise Martin-Chew  

Desire LinesThe work of Michael Georgetti
Jane O’Sullivan, 2019

In Michael Georgetti's installations, there's no easy way to disentangle the art object from the mechanics of its display. Instead of hanging his paintings on the wall, he builds them gleaming metal frames that refuse to stay out of the way. Instead, they make cheeky runs across the face of the painting or even, in May The Wolf Bite You, 2018, quietly cage it in.

Sometimes, these frames act as supports, turning the paintings into freestanding objects. In DESIRING-MACHINES (Dolce & Gabbana), 2018, the gold frame reaches to the ground before pushing up into a plinth, holding up a small, roughly made sculpture like it's a bottle of perfume in an airport duty-free shop. Georgetti has also covered the frame of this work with vinyl Dolce & Gabbana stickers, as though his artwork is the latest consumer good with the power to transform you into a sleek, stylish, cultivated beast. Which is all to say, there's a fierce humour running through Georgetti's work.  

Georgetti brings logos into his works not because he is scornful (or at least not entirely) but because he knows how easily we can read them. Logos are some of the most intensely designed objects in our contemporary environment. They can be rapidly translated into a raft of emotionally-laden values, associations and aspirations. Hi Dan, Thankyou for cancelling My Subscription., 2019, is branded with preppy, upbeat Tommy Hilfiger logos. The Eiffel Tower's tricky, we never know which leg to meet under, 2019, is a gamine sculpture paired with the elegant restraint of Issey Miyake. And Colonial Spirit (National Anthems), 2018, puts a found image of a napoleonic canon being fired with the proud eagles of Emporio Armani. By inserting these logos into his work, Georgetti is both alluding to art as a luxury object and co-opting some of their sheen.

Georgetti is also attracted to text-based logos as a form of language that is not read in the usual, active sense. He often uses letters to provide a grid or underlying architecture to his compositions. He then adds collage to these paintings, usually parts of other paintings that he has made with intent of cutting them up. These hidden grids can be felt in works like Quasi-Bodies, (Ghost Displays), 2018, which suggests the familiar proportions of a B or an S, and in DESIRING-MACHINES, which combines a sketched Y with a collaged shape to suggest an arched body with arms flung wide. Treated like this, the hidden letters pull on the muscle memory involved in the physical act of reading, but then stop short. They suggest language rather become language. In some ways, this feels like a regression but it can also be read as a rebellious act. As it's argued in the influential text The Internet Does Not Exist, for something to enter the contemporary, data-driven online economy, it must first be possible to translate it into language.

Other paintings are structured in a nested fashion, with strips of colour and pattern placed like an overlapping sheets of paper. Georgetti often incorporates symbols into these compositions. Like the letters, they are used as visual cues that can be quickly taken in. Leaf-like shapes are neatly lined up in SCANDINAVIAN WALTZ, 2018, and a row of flowers runs down the left edge of one new work, suggesting patterned wallpaper, an emoji-laden tweet, and the leather of a Louis Vuitton handbag.

These references say something about Georgetti's take on the contemporary global art market, with its swirling currents of status anxiety, spectacle and social media. Georgetti is well aware of the long history of thought around art as a commodity, having recently completed his PhD on a related topic. Many of these debates come back to the question of what art is or can be within market frameworks, and the nature of the art object itself. As Sven Lütticken might put the question, do object have a "thinginess" or innate quality that is distinct from how we choose to arrange, order and think about them? Georgetti's tangled mode of presentation suggests he'd say not. Context is everything here. But rather than focusing on objects, Georgetti seems to be suggesting that if anything contemporary art has become its own brand.

His works are intentionally inviting. They promise slickness; a particularly shiny and perfect kind of luxury. The frames are alluring and blingy, and the paintings are in bold, pleasing colours or dramatic black and white. But Georgetti is quick to disrupt expectations. Up close, it's possible to see how haphazardly he has cut and affixed the collaged elements to the surface. Walk around the back, and the reverse of the paintings are left unapologetically exposed.

Some works push this to the extreme. A.T.L.A.N.T.I.S., 2018, pairs the sci-fi lettering of the Atlantis logo with a ruin of a sculptural object. It looks like a figurine (or a concrete garden ornament) that has been smashed and chaotically glued back together. It speaks of history and decay while the logo speaks of the future, but these parts are united by Georgetti's restrained colour palette.

The rawness to many of these works pushes Georgetti's critique in an unexpected direction. Walter Benjamin, in his famous 1935 essay on art in the age of mechanical reproduction spoke of artworks having an aura, an ineffable quality connected with the visibility of the artist's hand and the ability to place the work in space and time. Georgetti seems to permit this sort of thinking only to spear it with his humour.  

His freestanding paintings appear, like shop fittings, to be modular. At the top of DESIRING-MACHINES, an uncapped prong juts from the frame as though another part can be snapped on. These sorts of details suggest expansion and possibility, but also retraction — like the works can be taken apart, slotted back into their boxes and slid under the bed. Earlier works made with timber frames also played with this idea, like Vultures Who Fly with Kites, 2018, which looked like it could be unclipped and folded like a lattice. Benjamin might have treated the artist with real reverence, but Georgetti doesn't seem interested in that kind of hubris.