'The novel wants to sweep everything into its mighty embrace — shores, mountains, continents. But it can never succeed, because the world is vaster than a novel, the world rushes away at every point. The novel leaps restlessly from place to place, always hungry, always dissatisfied, always fearful of coming to an end — because when it stops, exhausted but never at peace, the world will have escaped it. The short story concentrates on its grain of sand, in the fierce belief that there — right there, in the palm of its hand — lies the universe. It seeks to know that grain of sand the way a lover seeks to know the face of the beloved. It looks for the moment when the grain of sand reveals its true nature.'1

Steven Millhauser

Three years ago I was a design student, and Jeremy Bakker was dating a friend of mine. In my final semester, I undertook a publication elective. I was required to design a book, and Jeremy agreed to let his work be the subject. The brief asked for a publication with at least thirty-six pages. I submitted a hard cover volume, with a page count in excess of four hundred. It was an extravagant undertaking, but I was convinced that if Jeremy Bakker's work were a book, it should be a tome.

The work that Bakker has created for this exhibition is unlike his earlier works, but the difference is hard to identify. The style, scale and ideas are the same, but there is a change of emphasis to the role the body plays in the process of creating the work.

Previously, Bakker has cast hundreds of his fingerprints from wax, and attached them to a wall. He has cut all the full stops from a copy of Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time and displayed them in a glass jar. There is something like the former in this show: a new work with a ‘Hundreds and Thousands’ attached to pins, set in a grid that covers the gallery wall. These works relate to one another, and it's easy to imagine the similarities in the way Bakker repeatedly crafted each one. Except the process behind this work has been augmented by an action that none of us is likely to imagine. Each one of the tiny cake decorations in Minor Infinities is attached to its pin by a drop of the artist’s semen.

Is it a joke? I don’t think so (although I do think it’s funny that the work about sperm is on a wall opposite one on which the artist has literally ‘rubbed out’ another.) No, the masturbating Bakker has done as part of this work is an exploration of new and visceral ways that he might engage with the issues that concern his art. In this instance, by making it more direct ­–at least in the initial stage– and by working with a material that’s both more personal and more general.

All of the work in this show belies similar attempts at refining the old process in different ways. Fraction of the Whole (107 928 grains of sand) is another that corresponds to an earlier methodology, except that by just counting every grain of sand that goes into in the jar, Bakker has chosen a process in which a more passive action has been substituted for the activity of repeated crafting.

Afterglow (Sunrise to Sunset), a grimy spot on the gallery wall left behind by Bakker rubbing his hand against it in a circular motion for the course of a single day, introduces a time constraint on the process set by the rising and setting of the sun.

The same is true of Satellite, a glass marble swallowed and then excreted by the artist, although this time it’s a more arbitrary limit set by Bakker’s digestive system.
Each one of these new processes allows Bakker to encounter a different experience of time and being and space, and respond in ways that are exquisitely human.

The altered approach is tentative –there’s an unresolved tension between the old and the new that’s acknowledged in the title–but the work it has produced is already so exciting and strong. If prior to this Bakker’s process was about taking advantage of the availability of time to produce work that beguiled us into asking what it might be about, now it’s giving us ways in which we might all be able to conceive of universal ideas.

Samuel Barnes, 2012

1. Millhauser, S. (2008, October 3). The Ambition of the Short Story. The New York Times. Retrieved from
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/05/books/review/Millhauser-t.html