I had a very long list of things I wanted to see in London but it turned out there wasn’t enough time to see them all. Here’s what stood out from what I did see…
First was the Lisson Gallery, which is in two venues in London. In the first we saw group exhibition ‘Line’, which featured fifteen artists showing work from the 60’s to the present day. It was an extension of the idea of ‘line’, how we might consider it through drawing, sculpture, photography, performance, installation – ‘…both physical entity and intellectual proposition…’. For me one of the most visually and materialy striking works there was a sculpture by Athanasios Argianas, which apparently also forms part of a performance which utilises music and vocals by three performers. The sculpture on its own was very delicate and full of space, with a long continuous ribbon of shiny brass looped and folded over steel frame-like structures. It was just very alluring, the contrast of the solidity of the material – brass – and the fluidity of its form – ribbon-like and draped.
Upstairs a video by K.Yoland commented on the changeable and hard to define nature of boarders – lines – with a video of a performance which took place in Texas, close to the Mexican boarder. In a barren, desert-y landscape the artist attempts to unfurl a long roll of paper, it shifts in the wind and refuses to settle, a metphor for the arbitrary and potentially frustrating character of boarders.
At the next Lisson venue was a solo exhibition by film maker John Akomfrah. These were film installations, often spread over 2 or 3 screens. I wish I could have spent time watching the full length of the films but we were a bit pressed for time. The Airport was particularly interesting for it’s use of sound and installation across three screens. This allowed for multiple shots of apparently the same actions from differing perspectives, with sound that could belong to one shot, no shots. There was also a lot of stillness where the lines were blurred between still photography and film. This seems to intensify the ‘looking’ where you look for movement in the stillness and the pauses, and added to the changing rhythms and sense of time in the work, which were expressed through the image (abandoned buildings, the dress of the characters etc…) and movement (repetition of movement through multiple screens) as well as sound.
Next we rushed over to Tate Modern. I didn’t really enjoy being there and didn’t feel I got much out of it. I find it a really disordered way of looking at art. I did see Hito Styerls “How not to be seen…” video, although I’ve already seen it in full online it was interesting to see it in a gallery. People seemed either bemused or amused, so that was nice. It was generally a bit unengaging , a bit like walking around tesco. I suppose I quite liked the Turbine Hall work by Abraham Cruzvillegas, Empty Lot. I like the idea, seeing what grows over time in the soil from different sources, the unpredictable nature, and the geometric structure kind of satisfying to look at and photograph. But it’s also a bit meh… There are some weeds and bits of rubbish, I can’t imagine it will change much…. perhaps that’s the point? In which case it’s a bit depressing.
Started the second day at Tate Britain: Vanilla and Concrete. A small, single space exhibition with work from Marie Lund, Rallou Panagiotou and Mary Ramsden. Materials ranging through concrete, copper, marble, paint, wood. These were works which referenced everyday objects, gestures and materials and so were relatable and felt ‘real world’. They’re all quite traditional works – painting, sculpture – but we make connections through them to current themes – digitality, transformation, fabrication.
Personally it has also made me consider the purpose of sculpture in particular but also generally non-digital, non-screen based works. It’s not an earth shattering observation but I think it could be important for me to consider how I want to approach sculptural installation in my own work. They (physical works of art in galleries) have, obviously, an inherent materiality due their real physicality and presence in a space. Materials are chosen and worked and altered. Often we can move around a work, peer closely, see the light change on them but we can’t touch. We need a pre-existing understanding of the materials we looking at (maybe, maybe not, but understanding/lack of certainly has an effect). So, without wanting to disregard the experience of being present in front of work, I have the feeling that the visual takes precedent over the other sense of touch (not including sound here…) which seems funny when materials are so important, no? Obviously this is nothing new but thinking back to one element of my studio practice, it brings me back around to questions about how we experience things through screens and the idea of barriers – virtual and real, haptic technology recreating the sensation of touch and pressure, emphasising a sound etc….
From here I went straight to Whitechapel Gallery to see Electronic Superhighway (2016 -1966). It’s a fairly packed exhibition so I spent about 4 hours there. Maybe I should have tried to do it quicker but there was too much to see, including a lot of the artists and themes I’d been reading about in my dissertation research. I’m not really sure how to recap the exhibition, partly because it was so big. I suppose one interesting observation to come out of it for me was the way some things can appear aged and dated in such a relatively short span of time – especially in relation to the net art browser-based kind of stuff, for example, Scroll Bar Composition (2001?) by Jan Robert Leegte (check out Mouse Pointer, which is strangely infuriating!) . The work in this section (it was a separate section) has come from arts organisation Rhizome who have been archiving examples of this kind of work. It was meant to be interactive but for some reason (the gallery setting?) I didn’t feel comfortable interacting with any of it. This perhaps highlights the very specific context that the work is meant, originally, to be viewed in and I’m not sure it really worked here. I finally saw Camille Henrot’s film ‘Grosse Fatigue’, which I’d looked for online but never found in full, it was really noisy so I’d have liked the chance to watch it twice, there’s a lot going on. And also Ryan Trecartin’s ‘A Family Finds Entertainment’ which was great….
I didn’t take many photos at Whitechapel, perhaps because there were so many screen based works, but mainly because I just didn’t think to. Too busy looking, see? There were also a good number of sculptural works. In particular Katja Novitskova’s sculptures/images (Approximation 2012 – ongoing) which start somewhere, end up on the internet to be used by Novitskova as found images, become oversized digital prints, get photographed and end up back on the internet. There’s something strange about the difference between the look of the work in real life and in a photo where it appears like a digitally manipulated collage.
White Cube, Bermondsey: The History of Nothing, curated by Hannah Gruy. Also thought this show was interesting. Timur Si Qin – digitally manipulated photographs that look like advertising/commercial images complete with a recurring logo in the bottom left corner of each, something a bit like the pepsi logo, with new the words ‘New Peace’. They look like photographs, almost, but looking closer have repeated sections – foliage, or landscape – to give a false sense of a natural environment. This link to an exhibition of the same series, and there’s quite a bit written about Si-Qin’s work. This is an interesting interview from a couple of years ago… – it doesn’t necessarily have much aesthetic appeal but it does have lots of interesting ideas about the future, culture, biology, nature, how things organise and interrelate. Josephine Meckseper – car tyres, video and pounding sound. Really slick and commercial in appearance, like an advert. Anthea Hamilton – Kimono – another example of digital print on fabric which I’d seen crop up a few times, digital prints seemed to crop up a lot.
VITRINE, Bermondsey Square – This place cropped up when I was looking for something a bit different to go and see but it was a bit confusing?! We weren’t really sure how to access the gallery, maybe it was closed? Maybe we were stupid? Maybe we walked a while to get there and it was cold and we didn’t put in enough effort? In the shop front space of the gallery there was an installation by Jamie Fitzpatrick, using the format of short play/script with sculptural bodies as the characters. But it was cold (and windy) and we were tired and didn’t read a word of it. In the same square was a sculpture by Frances Richardson using a concrete material which sets in fabric – like folds. There are lots of things transforming or pretending to be other things… which I like.
ASC Gallery: This was a tiny gallery on the edge of a South London housing estate that took a while to find. It was good to find an atypical location for a gallery. I’m sure there are lots out there, they’re just hard to find when you’re not sure where to look and there are so many major exhibitions vying for your attention. They were showing one sculptural installation with large digital print fabrics (again) and sound: ‘Muscle Memory’ by Andrew Sunderland who is recent a MFA graduate from Goldsmiths – another reason I wanted to visit this gallery, to see something from someone at a very early stage in their work. I thought it was really interesting installation particularly for its variety of media – sculpture, digital prints on fabric, sound. Their aesthetic (fleshy tones and sound stretched and lengthened) all re-emphasised the concerns in this work – appropriation and production/re-production, forming/re-forming.