Khatia Esartia - Plato’s Pharmacy

In her first installation at Window Project, Khatia Esartia presents Plato’s Pharmacy, a 7 foot watercolor painting that aims to address Jacques Derrida’s famous text found in Dissemination, 1981. “This pharmakon, this “medicine,” this philter, which acts as both remedy and poison, already introduces itself into the body of the discourse with all its ambivalence.” - Jacques Derrida In Plato’s Pharmacy, Derrida argued that the written word, which Plato through Socrates ascribed to as a Pharmakon (drug), acts as neither a pure poison, nor as a simple cure. Plato and Socrates argue for - in their eyes- the more truthful and pure affect of a spoken word, versus the composed and therefore hidden message of a written text. For Derrida, the Pharmakon acts as a subversive concept of philosophy refusing to be rendered as either poison or remedy, rather it acts as both. One of the ways to address Derrida’s concept was to place this debate within the vitrine of Pantomime Theater, where neither the written nor spoken words are permitted, thus eliminating both and reverting to the fundamental elements of communication - the ancient act of mime. By employing the technique of watercolor, that which has long been subject of domestication of a truly disruptive material that requires not only mastering of the technique but also of oneself, Esartia reverted to the essential foundation of painting to resolve the dilemma of Pharmakon as an act of painting itself. The 7 foot mural for Window Project was constructed with physical vitality; fast moving gestural lines created an impression of fluid motion and sculptural presence. Esartia’s luminous palette was created by embracing the liberal allowance and employ of white space, which is the the wallpaper material itself. This relationship of light, variance from thin washes of pigment to saturated brush strokes, created the illusion of a seemingly visual and formal fragility, an ephemeral atmosphere. Reading the painting one discovers a mix of iconography, Classical mythology, Christian history and secular fairy-tales coexisting on the two-dimensional plane. The artist whips these tokens - figures both representational and abstract - into a frenzy. This frenzy swirls around in a repetitive cycle, swiping up and around objects, while the primary figure, a fantastical character with one leg poised in the air, is hesitant to make a single move, in fear of stepping on the wrong (poisoned) fruit. In Plato’s Pharmacy, Esartia reflects on the dynamics of the illusionary Truth that a painting presents. As is the case for Derrida’s Pharmakon, for Esartia the act of watercolor painting can be neither poison nor cure. Rather, it can allow the conceptualization and elevation of a technique that has long been relegated to the domestic sphere in the arts. By allowing for the illusion of light, fluid motion, and invisible control, watercolor can lie just enough to be able to project a truth.