Jesse Darling’s “No Medals No Ribbons”
              Francis Whorrall-Campbell
              What does it mean to make forgettable work when the art world trades in memory? Pics or it didn’t happen, the reification of the document: even in the dematerialized, social-media-sodden scene, art still functions as a memorial—even, we might venture, a monument to capital. Forgetting is abolitionist. The title of Jesse Darling’s survey at Modern Art Oxford, “No Medals No Ribbons,” signals a refusal to this sort of public recognition. Like the vitrines of slowly wilting flowers in the gallery café (and entrance to the exhibition), it calls up the trappings of remembrance while imploring us to forget. Inside the show, objects engage in childlike cosplay, slough off inhibitions to reveal new forms. A litter picker, crutch, and plastic bottle come together to form a gun; a Hitachi vibrator becomes the torch on the Statue of Liberty. Objects seem unbothered by the fact they are in a museum: they trip over each other, try and trip you up, stretching and lurching their wiry limbs in ungainly configurations. Two unsteady vitrines—part of the series “Epistemologies” (2018–22)—comprise an art-historical joke at the expense of the institution. Containing only concrete blocks or a pile of lifeless birds, these works make a blunt mockery …

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