Oom is an all-encompassing, conceptual project of artist Andy Best. Quietly referential of Warhol and Ginsberg, richly multiplicitous, it is utopian yet post-universalist, serious yet humourous, amorphous yet carefully signified. Its name has connections with other similarly constructed histories. Such as The Mighty Oom, the eccentric magician hermit of a 1990’s cartoon, or The Omnipotent Oom, an American tantric sex pioneer, businessman, and cult leader from the early 20th Century. Oom is also a character from a Stephen Leacock satire of the archetypal utopian novel, Edward Bellamy’s “Looking Backward” (1888); as well as a monster from the planet Yzgartyl in a 1940’s comic book, who hides as a bronze sculpture in New York. Untranslatable and almost meaningless, it most obviously relates to the Hindu sound/concept ‘Om’, but this relationship is necessarily indistinct. Oom’s sources are generative and specific, whilst multilayered and intermingled.
Large photographic prints with a mobile-phone-meets-fashion-magazine feel tell of the Rock and Roll, Adam and Eve beginnings of Best’s Oom. They document the incidental actions of personal friends. Their tone echoes to their geographic location: ‘Hans Heysen country’, and also where Bon Scott, ‘the Wild Man of the Hills’, and an early hippy incarnation of ACDC made the transition from dope smoking ramblers to hard drinking rockers. Oom also includes drawings, objects and paintings which are also important symbols of, and artifacts from, the Oom society. These works take the grids, cones and geometry of Modernism to a psychedelic 1970’s (or 1990’s) fin de siècle – spliffs, tubes and pseudo-religious pyramids. Oom also implies a communal, curatorial or collective element, involving artists, writers and musicians as collaborators, models and commercial partners, and a website expands this ambitiously interdisciplinary project. Yet the peculiar, carefully aestheticised artworks at the heart of this utopian collectivity, while emblemising its narrative, simultaneously disrupt its integrity.
For Best, Oom is an important step in an ongoing investigation into authenticity. Building on previous works such as the horrendously inspired, painted concrete ‘giant squid attacks motorbike in Egypt’ (Isis, Isis, Ra Ra Ra, 2007), or the grandly successful, giant, sculptural manifestation of Donkey Kong (Pauline, 2004), this current project shifts to incorporate elements of the social aspect of art practice. Best sees this collective element as vital to his work; without it it would be artificially succinct. Oom is a vehicle which endorses and embodies this social involvement, exploring it and pursuing its implications, as well as facilitating further unpredictable growth from it.
– Jon Fawcett, London-based artist and curator, in conversation with Andy Best