Words by Patrick Kirk-Smith.
First published by Art in Liverpool.com
Well this is a hypochondriac’s worst nightmare…
Fresh out of Roswell, New Mexico, is a series of work that has nothing to do with aliens. Rather, it is a response to anxiety about the human condition, and various specific human conditions. The collaborative duo met in Liverpool eight years ago and have been taking advantage of their compatibility ever since, in a series of successful residencies and exhibitions. They return to Liverpool with a collection of work created in their most intense residency yet.
After talking to Paddy Gould for just a few short minutes, it was clear that the process these two artists’ engaged in was one that accepted serendipity as a serious thing, albeit within a rigorous plan. The two artists, Roxy Topia and Paddy Gould have spent the last year in what, to many, might seem like an actual nightmare. You know, one of those places that sounds nice on the face of it, but as the reality dawns and the flight gate gets nearer, you start to seriously doubt whether it’s a good decision; one of those places. In the middle of the dessert in New Mexico, USA, the two artists threw themselves into a new world. A world without pop culture, and one with barely a hint of internet.
The work that came out of it is a detached response to the internet, in a way mourning it, and at the same time, enjoying the lack of it. Focussing on the fear surrounding our personal and community health. And while there’s an immediate suggestive level to the work, it gets further from that as you get to know it, more accurately hinting at intestines and the urethra, and other anatomical bits and bobs that social media tries to keep a steady fear around.
It’s important to note that this is in no way a medical comment, and in no way anatomically correct. It’s funny, it’s suggestive, and one piece is called Faecal Transplant (make of that what you will). It’s more a comment on the culture around the subject, using illustrations to play with the artists’ personal take on the internet and printing those illustrations onto generously garish repeat pattern fabrics.
Got Worms? has travelled across the pacific in suitcases and is a retelling of the story they tried to tell in Roswell as part of their yearlong residency, The Recovery Position, focussing on similar themes, but with a much fuller body of work to display them. That’s always the challenge for artists at A Small View, but when it works it makes any artists in there seem like a genius, because there’s no curatorial guise to hide behind, just the quality of the work on the value of its face.
The exhibition, on display at A Small View until 21st May, is a brilliant example of what kitsch can be when it’s kitsch for a reason. This isn’t just shiny stuff looking good. This is shiny stuff telling a tale.
Ob_ject and Ob_serve
Words by Rachel Toner
First published by FACT
“How forward thinking”, is what best springs to mind, upon a visit to this small but nonetheless engaging exhibition. An intimate gallery is perhaps what partly turns the key here, unlocking our perceptions of objects and the secret life that they may hold. Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the high street in Liverpool’s arty Gostins Arcade; A Small View Gallery renders the perfect vibe to open up your mind… along with the wonderful art of course!
What exists when a laptop or mobile has served its purpose for us humans? Will a computer sit dumb without our click-tap? Or have we somehow overlooked that a system so advanced may be functioning without us, in an endless wandering web search? These are the questions the artist who make up The Object Liberation Fronthave set out to address.
Wandering Wondering by Edgar Zanella and Radamés Ajna ponders this, as you potter clockwise round the intriguing space. More chillingly perhaps, it questions if we have become perhaps too comfortable following our daily patterns, or algorithms… just like the computer presented. “What is it like to be browsing like a machine?” asks the writing on the wall. This statement though, from such avant-garde thinkers, seems to suggest that we may already know.
Next up, Ajna and Thiago Hersan’s memememe project and sculpture features two phones supposedly interacting with one another; have they been set up by our artists or are they communicating in their own language? The everyday object is seemingly transformed, as we see a manmade creation with a possible life of its own. The little movements and squeaky noises that these devices make cannot be understood by us, nor the artists who created them; but is it possible that these devices have forged their own such communication?
Alex Pearl’s Simple Machines simplifies objects, right down to their raw state… after we dispose of them! Provocatively, he’s clubbed old items together to try and make sense of their new state, and asking; are they still serving a function? At first glance perhaps they are not, but put your ear a little closer to Machine 14 and an old battery powered ear wax remover may be humming a new, nostalgic tune. Old objects get rusty, but they’re not yet dead. Perhaps what we come to consider superfluous may be useful… just these few objects probe a multitude of questions, and ambiguity makes simplicity quite remarkable.
Tying in with wastefulness, Sam Skinner’s wonderfully visual project asks us to consider the old Liverpool Observatory; once the centre of Maritime intelligence, and ponder what would a contemporary observatory look like, and what would it “observe”? It’s up to you to decide what such an institution should be like in today’s world.
First published by The Skinny
Half Real brings together an international group of creative practitioners exploring and working within the intersection between art and videogames.
Half Real looks to explore the space between art and games, bringing together an impressive group of international artists and game designers including Rod Humble, the former CEO of Linden Lab (the company responsible for groundbreaking online multiplayer game Second Life) as well as Molleindustria, notorious for their guerrilla-style provocative socio-political games. The Italian group are best-known for Phone Story, a game which asks a player to become symbolically complicit in the unethical processes involved in producing a smartphone.
The selection of works on show, united by their medium – the video game – blur the boundaries of gaming with other art forms, focussing beyond gaming and games’ often overshadowing commercial aspect, and onto the spectrum of other roles the game can assume. The Graveyard, by Belgian studio Tale of Tales, simply asks the player to guide an old lady to a bench on the other side of a graveyard, where she sits, contemplates her life, and also may die. While extremely simple, the game powerfully confronts the player with the notion of death, and one’s acceptance of it.
On a similar level, Molleindustria’s Every Day the Same Dream follows the tedious and repetitive daily commute of a nondescript white collar worker, and encourages the player to subvert the repetitive banality of the character’s existence, in turn posing questions and providing ambiguous commentary on the notions of routine and repetition.
Through examining the work showcased at Half Real, it is clear that much of it has been produced in direct confrontation with the traditional ideals of the ‘game’ championed by the commercial videogame world. As Tale of Tales have mentioned in reference to their own work, “[it’s] about dispensing with the formalities of gaming”. This collection contributes to the ever expanding definition of the videogame, providing the medium a greater remit in which to exist and experiment, positioning them in roles beyond entertainment and into the realms of documentary, journalism, activism or commentary.
Maze Walkthrough by Serafin Alvarez positions itself central to the show, and certainly stands out in the body of work. The game consists of a never-ending series of connected corridors – each corridor taken from a sci-fi film, leaving the player to wonder through these with no goal or objective. The game is a manifestation of Alvarez’s obsession with the corridor as a liminal and transitional space, and almost exists as his personal museum, stitching together these spaces and leaving the player or viewer in a state of permanent transition. In wandering through these corridors a feeling of intrusion is elicited, as if you have stumbled into someone’s personal fiction and obsession and are seeing something that was meant to be hidden away.
Looking past the content and at the exhibition as a whole, Half Real provides an interesting perspective on the medium, and its role within the art space. In all cases, the work on show exists as downloadable files, which can be played on personal devices. However, positioning these games in a gallery space invites the viewer to engage on a more critical level, clearly framing the work as meaningful and content rich as opposed to a product for entertainment. As shown with MOMA’s acquisition of Pac-Man, in recent years we have started to accept the significance of the videogame medium, and Half Real serves to contribute to this growing awareness.
Ob_ject and Ob_serve
Words by Patrick Kirk-Smith.
First published by Art in Liverpool.com
A Small View is currently the final destination for the artists who brought us FACTLab through 2015. The show, titled Ob_ject and Ob_serve, is a change from normality in Liverpool, and challenges a lot of what has been happening recently in terms of digital arts. There have been a lot of shows with the potential to do something interesting which have failed on all fronts, but this small understated exhibition in the relatively anonymous A Small View is a massive success, because it takes the machine, and it reports it.
It slightly tweaks the state of what a machine is in places, and forces definitions in others, but the tie that makes this a success is that it isn’t making a statement that doesn’t need to be made, it just takes objects and observes them. Simple. Effective.
Perhaps what you first need to understand is what FACTLab is/was, and what it has become. The group, as I understand it, was made of two parts, the strictly FACTLab part, and the PhD part. The PhD part (two parts really: Sam Skinner and Alex Pearl) was focussed, and concise, and has been led beautifully astray by the others. The others seem to have developed focus through the arts research element and freed up a huge amount of ideas through space, public interaction and accountability. And then whatever happened happened. And now we have The Object Liberation Front, which is the slightly less accountable, and much more flexible, conglomerate of Radamés Ajna, Thiago Hersan, Alex Pearl, Sam Skinner and Edgar Zanella
Talking to Thiago Hersan about his collaborative work, it was clear that he is simply somebody who enjoys tech, in all shapes and all sizes, and the offering in the gallery conveys that. It’s an opportunity to enjoy tech, and try to find a new understanding of it. Not a statement about a robot uprising, or the terrifying power of the internet. This celebrates the possibilities of machines, based on what they are; an exercise in letting go of an idea.
The physical manifestation of all this is excellently thought through, from a poster created in line with their collective vision (laser cut due to convenience and relevance, rather than printed in a way that would contribute nothing) to a changeable, temporal pin board which tells a history of a process of research. The artists really do seem to be striving for transparency here, whether it’s demonstrated through their language or their finished work, which seems to be continuing a conversation – through noise, through offers, through the implied curiosity of a humanless phone.
Ob_ject and Ob_serve introduces us to a very particular perspective on what a non-anthropocentric world would be able to engage with, which is an incredibly approachable question, generously shared. This is an outgoing exhibition by five artists who have come together to offer up something hugely unselfish that gets us to reframe out own views of our own objects.
Words by Patrick Kirk-Smith.
First published by Art in Liverpool.com
Too Expensive is a playful response to a lot of questions. Claire Dorsett’s exhibition is another great reaction to A Small View’s limited square footage, sticking boldly to minimal displays and well told stories.
What is most interesting is Dorsett’s ability to tell a story employing only the complete minimum. She uses assured lines and colours that help tell the story, elevating this to something far beyond colour composition work. There is an entire narrative squeezed into this big purple square, and it is brave and funny and gets better as you get to know it. The story revolves around a dinner with her brother, some lamp shades and the colour purple. So it’s hardly Tolkien, but it is part of her fascination with the idiosyncrasies life throws her way, and it is rare to find a story so simple.
It’s a show that again expresses the value A Small View brings to Liverpool, as a small independent venue, trying new things, and introducing artists to the city who otherwise might not have exhibited here. This exhibition was turned around in less than a month, and it really has that energy, which has to be attributed to the artist firstly but the gallery deserves a lot of credit in that decision. It is a straightforward, confident exhibition that pushes the boundaries of the gallery, the artist and their diaries.
Confidence, it seems to me, is something Claire Dorsett has in droves already. It has simply grown at an accelerated rate as a result of this exhibition. This is conveyed to the audience through colour. Purple in this case. A lot of purple.
This fascination though, follows on from how she finds her narratives, in the happenstances we miss in daily life. She said of the colour: “I wanted to use purple because it was a colour I hadn’t really worked with. Ideas for colour (for me) mostly come from seemingly insignificant things, such as the colour of a new pen I’ve got a bit obsessed with or a jumper or something small and idiosyncratic like that.”
It is a storyteller’s charm that holds this exhibition up more than anything else, graphically underpinning what, for all we know, could have been one of the dullest evenings of the artist’s life. But here we have that evening captured, solidified and commemorated in a way that probably would never have happened without the input of A Small View’s space. It is a coincidental moment, as the result of a coincidental request, and the narrative we are granted access too would have been lost to memory if not for this exhibition, no matter how insignificant. So for that, Claire Dorsett’s brother has a lot to thank this artist-gallery collaboration for.
Words and photographs by Patrick Kirk-Smith
First published by Art in Liverpool.com
Hidden at the back of The Gostins Arcade, at the end of Hanover Street, is an exhibition that could not have found a better home. Kit Brown’s Symbiosis is an immersive, interlinked, audio visual experience, and A Small View is its perfect hiding place. The cosy gallery space manages to add an even more immersive atmosphere to the exhibition, forcing us through this multi-media recorded experience.
“A conceptual thought exercise”, as Brown describes his own work, split into four interwoven parts, providing four pieces not just linked in space, but by their physical structures. Wires cross the floor and serve the juxtaposed purposes of connecting and dividing the audio and visual aspects of the work.
Park and Tap, the two film pieces in the exhibition loop around on one screen, providing audio to Six Units, which sit behind Score Box – which can only be described, in Brown’s words, as an A/V producing object. The constant audible bombardment from these interwoven elements served as a reminder that immersive art doesn’t have to be forceful, it can be something you choose to step into, and Symbiosis manages this expertly. And to reinforce how constant a bombardment it was, by the end of this exhibition the speakers had begun to succumb to the noise.
I mention this not as a negative by any means, because Brown aims to “provide a critique of creativity, particularly the art of decision making,” which, it seems, the speakers have evolved to understand. Brown also talks about methods, giving way to chance, but within rigid self-inflicted rules, and that is something physically reflected again here. Six Units sit in the centre of the gallery; six uniformed boxes on rigid frames, with uniformly pixelated images covering the speakers, as uniformly trimmed squares of paper twitch around in chance patterns to the audio of the films.
Brown has invited the viewer to join him in questioning creative decision making with this exhibition, by employing the one technique he seems to want more of: honesty. Somehow, through four initial ideas coming to fruition, and an idea to force them all together, a physical mind map has been created, and opened to the public. The subjects of the original films seem almost irrelevant, not once really presenting a park or a full audible conversation; this show creates new work with nothing more than an idea, and presents an all too familiar audience critique from the new perspective of the artist. Critique is the primary object here, reinventing itself as the subject of Brown’s work.
Kit Brown seems to be on a similar thought plane to many others currently, one that seems to be leading to a new Dada, questioning what has become of the original question of value, at times even down to the value of individual words. The first piece you come to in the show, Score Box, is described as an Audio/Visual producing object. Not something you would expect to be mostly analogue, but as we learn from this show, it is unsafe to take things as read.
Art In Liverpool, Art and About – Carnival by Inga Lineviciute at A Small View
By Ian Jackson
First published by Art in Liverpool
There is something delightful but with a sense of uneasiness in this installation by Inga Lineviciute. It consists of 2 animations – one showing the family feasting, the other revealing a different picture from below the table…
This new(ish) gallery is run by the friendly and enthusiastic recent graduates Benjamin Davies and Kelly Hayes. They’ve put on some good shows already and we look forward to seeing many more.
There are different businesses in the arcade each time we visit, do pop in and chat to the curators, you can get a haircut, a tattoo and some fashion items for your dog whilst you’re there.
A Small Group Of Idiots Spoiling It For Everyone Else
Review by Kyle Nathan Brown
First published by Art in Liverpool.com
On entering A Small View exhibition place, dimly lit only by the lights from the corridor outside, one is confronted by a white plinth in the centre of the room, about waist height, atop of it two mini digital projectors side by side facing opposite directions. Opposite from each on the side walls are the projections. This is the new show by Manchester-based artist David Mackintosh, entitled A Small Group of Idiots Ruining It for Everyone Else.
The projections, true to Mackintosh’s style, are a collection of loose ink drawings, animated, one after another to the timing of a metronome, the ticking sound coming from the projectors.
On the left wall the projection is around the size of A3 paper, landscape. The drawings are almost paintings insofar as the amount of ink used fills the ‘paper’ in solid black and washed out diluted grey. Vague landscapes, slanted buildings, houses, abstract architecture of inky ambiguous towns or cities, and parks, trees and a bench, bushes and streets. And those stray images that clock in and out to the click of the metronome which adhere to none of these descriptions. A washed out grey ink mass of sketchy wet brush marks almost filling the entire page with only suggestions of representation through a collection of thicker blacker lines.
On the right wall, the images are around the size of A4 paper, portrait. These drawings are made up of more solid lines; thicker ink, and less of it. You watch the images changing as the metronome keeps clicking to the next and you see suggestions of details. Faceless faces, heads turned away, the backs of strangers. Is that a hand or merely lines? Is that a person? A group of people?
These drawings, all of these images together and animated in this way, give the feeling of walking through the streets of a town or a city and taking it all in only to recall it in a kind of half memory. Half remembered and the rest suggested. The piece feels bold, confident in its vague nature. A distorted narrative, or illustrations of whispers, slight reminders of experience and memory.
When looking at the artist’s previous work, for example in his publication, imagine you’re in a room full of blind fools desperately grasping at nothing, you see the work of a very contrived and contemplated style. The fast-paced, sketch-like images become more familiar and more relatable. The immense confidence of the work shows through in its boldness to be itself, unashamedly. Saying this, however, the work is not void of context beyond form and subject. Referencing the traditional artistic practices, landscape and figure painting, this exhibition sees contemporary art contemplating modernity and beyond.
The press release for this exhibition says the show’s name highlights the categorising of certain collectives operating against the norm; a crowd causing enough of a ruckus to be made example of by persons of authority. Examples given of these groups of idiots are ‘acts of hooliganism at a football game’ and a ‘peaceful demonstration results in violent protest’; and the categorising of these groups made by football commentators and police spokespersons. The relevance of making these observations is then put into context when applying them to the role of artists and a possible way of understanding their actions and position in contemporary society; as someone who acts against the norm.
This, when given as the title for an exhibition of such composition, urges one to ask the questions, ‘what are we looking at here?’ and ‘what does the artist mean to say by these images, these animations?’ What I believe we are seeing is David Mackintosh’s observations of life passing-by in all its banalities and forgettable detail. We see the artist as voyeur, carefully considering and highlighting the way we, acceptingly, live our lives; in houses, on streets, in towns and in cities. The act of protest or interruption being made is by making example of this way in which society continues day by day. By saying ‘This is how we live!’ those listening are momentarily taken out of that situation and are able to observe it, before once again continue to keep on keeping on.
The true strength of this exhibition is its simplicity; two projectors, two basic animations. And the strong, cool style of the work, which comes from their confident execution, transforms the simple appearance into intriguing, incredibly well-composed pictures. The result of which is a sketchy narration of everything we expect to see; all day, everyday.
Best of Britannia, Fine Art Installation
Review by Sophie Barrott
Leave your former self by the door – take a sip of pink gin, step into the club and out of your comfort zone. You are far away now. It’s 1965 and Preston’s old Post office building’s working men’s social club is in full swing on a Friday night. Flash forward and contemporary art has overruled – Best of Britania’s UCLAN Fine Art exhibition is a surreal oasis away from the downstairs trade show and the confines of the conventional white cube gallery space.
Amiss with wanderers miss-navigating the winding corridors and ornate staircases of the old building, no one quite knows what to expect, myself included. ‘It’s The Phoenix Club’, a woman laughs to her husband. It’s clear that things are different here; flock velvet walls clash a dated 60’s social club décor with red tinsel, a glowing space heater and haphazard mismatched mustard seating that’s scattered around the exposed stone floor. Aesthetically, I’m in my element.
Left to decay, the realm of the social club desired a new purpose, now reinvented and absent of once residing squatters it contains a clash of ideologies. An exciting curatorial effort encompassing Preston’s current energy of creative collaboration and reinvention of the old intermingled with new contradictions in found spaces. It’s a lot to take in.
An old Fergusson TV quietly malfunctions in the corner; its clearly visible digital inputs sparks the desire for nostalgia in a world with a need for ease, immediacy and convenience. Every now and then functioning, displaying tender diaristic photo collages confusing any sense of fact or reality. Mark Smith’s monochromatic memories and snapshots collide to form a melancholic distortion on memory and physical beauty.
At the far end of the club, beyond a red leather bar area, a pentagram is crudely marked in thick black spray paint on a door that’s slightly ajar. We are somewhere else entirely. Tape blocks our way further into the club, so I assume a detached perspective, the projection on the screen is too far away to fully engage with. I suppress that part of me that needs to break boundaries and venture further, to the off limit lands. A grotesque masked character begins to experiment with luminous green fluid in a cauldron whilst taking intermittent dance breaks. I feel on the brink of something, I am the awkward guest in this absurd alterior world, just out of reach of my current realm of perception. And then I meet Nick Norcross, the man behind the mask and everything starts to make sense.
Nick talks to me about his love of sci-fi movies, techno, clubbing and the electronic underground music scene. His exudes a genuine enthusiasm and energy as he talks about his experiences at The Orbit, a club integral to his work; a vision quest of inspiration, light shows and lasers. Rooted in instinct and emotion, his work combines video, unusual interpretations of animal masks and performance in the guise of his alter ego Tribal Nick. He introduces me to each of his characters, brandished on the window ledges of the club, each as bold and colourful as the next. In an uninterrupted stream of consciousness, he mentions the video by the stage of him in an alligator mask mowing the lawn was a gift to his mum on mother’s day, aptly named A mothers day gift with a surreal twist. His mum is sat in the wings, proudly onlooking.
Tribal Nick tells me he’s about to perform. We await, in a room filled with techno fuelled electricity, on the brink of a happening. It’s Friday night, and there’s nowhere else I’d rather be. He steps up to the stage, his second performance of the day – this ones just for us. He dons a Golden snub-nosed monkey inspired mask teamed up with a cigar – a bizarre and fascinating sight. ‘He likes cigars’, he told me earlier, referencing the orange furry collaged masked character. He eagerly approaches the stage, flicking through his iPod, he settles on a track. He turns up the volume, and begins.
Thumping Techno floods the working men’s club. Lost in a tribal expression fuelled frenzy, he takes us on a surreal journey, witnessing something far from any reality I’ve known before. Moving, acting, reacting, he’s a techno conduit channeling some internal force and compulsion for expression. His performance is something you need to experience for yourself, immaterial, an escape, a true exertion in body, mind and spirit. It’s been 8 minutes, and he’s still going strong, it ends – and I’m left struck, wondering if anything like this will ever happen to me again.
Separate from the spectacle of performance resides the work of curator and artist Benjamin Davies. His Dystopian vision manifests in an absent POV multi layered interactive video game. Lost in a forgotten town, you navigate a desolate landscape that perfectly captures our present as future past. Photographs intermingled with drawings and textures collage the walls in a world compromised of grey with intermittent injections of cerise pink. A bleak yet hypnotic journey through Davies’ world leaves you with no destination, just the tranquility of an uninterrupted stroll around a derelict land. Search for the red room, navigate and lose yourself again and again. Monoliths of possibility hide within, taking you elsewhere – further into the grey nightmare. An empty looming destruction lingers around every corner, of a world at the edge. Colour has ran from the walls, no identity remains, just fragments of existence litter the landscape. You are even absent; a character without a face, roaming further into oblivion.
In such a visually overwhelming space, some works are swallowed completely, while others perfectly adapt to their surroundings, reflecting the idiosyncrasy and ethos of the building itself. With clean-cut, impeccably finished metallic prints of beautifully crafted models of coloured lit spaces, Kelly Liderth’s work, although similarly otherworldly – seems out of place. Her photographic prints cling normality in a space that is anything but. Displayed on stark white false walls, her work claims a need to be seen in solitude, away from the imposing atmosphere of the old Post Office.
Tim Nikrooz’s work Ashes in the Fall wasn’t something I discerned immediately as apart from the space – it stood out, but masked itself in the decay as just a cash machine to be seen as part of the wreckage. Is this what was intended? The space inside held nothing but a space for contemplation. Left clouded in ambiguity, the intervention as a metaphorical response to the space saw the physical conditions as a direct consequence of failed economies. Teamed up with Gary Wiggin’s large-scale illustrations of Pit Bull’s, the far end of the club becomes symbolic of a cohesive reaction to the space and those downtrodden underclass that once inhabited it.
A multidimensional, fascinating character’s work, almost too hidden amidst the chaotic flock and wooden wall cabinet was David Darbyshire. An intricate, detailed, multi dimensional and thoughtful piece that ties together the traditions of Ancient Egyptian mummification, Anubis, the golden ratio, and his dog Pi. In a complex explanation of his work, David divulged the inner most workings of his practice, something that transcends a physical presence into a realm of thought around life, death, synchronicity, connection and mostof all, affection for his dog, Pi.
As I’m leaving, I notice a tree emerging through the exposed brickwork outside of the old building, displaced and intertwined, its presence questions our existence and impermanence, or mark, contribution and untimely destruction. The desolate world of bricks and mortar contains us but it does not make us – life resides somewhere else entirely. In the spontaneity of performance, the energy of those uninterrupted, unwavering and fearless minds that drive us fourth into new realms of possibility. Creating for the love, for the urge, the compulsion. Adding to the creative landscape, driven through an obsessive temperament, a desire to live a life on their terms, and be heard. Like that tree creeping in the distressed brickwork, their mark will remain.
Review by Kyle Nathan Brown
First published by Art in Liverpool.com
On entering the Gostin Arcade on Hanover Street, Liverpool, one leaves the busy, near-central experience of the city and is confronted by what feels like a commune, a village almost, compact and quiet yet noisy with clutter and independent businesses. Following the directions I had been given by the artists, I found my way to ASmallView. This is the name given to the small space rented by Benjamin Davies and Kelly Hayes, and the host location of the exhibition, The Holodeck.
The show focuses on the act of simulation, or creation, of model realities in favour of our actual one. As the first line in the exhibition description reads, ‘In the hideous complexity of real life, models can be used to cut through the noise.’ An immediate overview of the show is that it is an exercise in creation/simulation of worlds beyond, burrowed in our own. By this I refer to the obvious paradox of escapism; one can only ever find hiding-places in the reality we already inhabit.
The room is small, white, but not white cube-clean. The work appears equidistant from each other on the three walls (the fourth being a window onto the rest of the arcade). Straight ahead on the far wall is a medium sized flat screen television with an Xbox controller on the ground in front. To the left are three brightly coloured digital prints and on the opposite wall are eight slightly darker digital prints laid out in grid formation, two down and four across.
The latter is the work of architect Jon Mackereth. Using a miniature model of a room which may or may not exist in our reality, and what was described by one of the other exhibiting artists to be a date and time light simulator, allowing one to simulate the exact lighting of the sun on any given day and at any given time. The model room, this simulated space, is basic and looks believable from a fair distance. However, what is truly fascinating about this series of images is the light, the focal point; the apparently accurate simulation of actual-time, human-time, time measured by the light of the sun. This rather dramatic realisation, that time is replicated so effortlessly in this age of technology, is also very simply executed; mere light from the window and on the floor. The presentation of the work, however, could perhaps have been executed a little better as it seems rushed, careless. Perhaps this is intentional(?).
Opposite this piece is the work of Kelly Hayes. Three digital prints on aluminium, mounted in a row on the wall. The images present a flawless model. Clean cut, sharp edges and stunning. Each is lit by a different coloured light; red, orange, blue. This perfection in finish reminds something of sci-fi, although I cannot quite place it. Abstract, yet very obviously of a doorway, corridor, or simply an exit; it seems beyond solid reference, and beyond human intervention; as if the simulation of utopia can only be without us. This idea of simulations and models comes across most strongly in this piece, from the perspective of the ideal. Why choose imperfection when playing god, or a creator…
The finish of these pieces brings to mind the future. A distant future of perfection, of clean cut design, of quietude yet bathed in artificial light.
The work of Benjamin Davies, however, reminds me of a future that feels ever looming, more so with every tragic news story of suffering, poverty, destruction and death. The art is a video game – how relevant – in which one wanders a world of imperfections; a world designed, destined to be forever in decay and disarray. Navigating the streets and forests of this landscape, one notices the mess, the clutter, the shit left behind by a species obsessed with buildings, plastic, signs and advertisement. And then one notices the lack of such species. The haunting silence and consequential realisation that they had drained their Earth of its resources and left for somewhere better. Or quite possibly, more realistically, ‘You failed. Better luck next time.’
Wandering the map of Benjamin’s game, one travels through portals – somewhat taking on the form of Stanley Kubrick’s Monoliths, 2001: A Space Odyssey – between different levels or ‘dimensions’ of this place, this space, this realm of the artist.
Constructed from digital textures, images, and what appears to be pen drawings masquerading as graffiti, all in black and white and red, the space created by the artist resembles a kind of dream world and at the same time is disturbingly close to our own reality, bringing to mind the landscapes of the films of Terry Gilliam; caught somewhere between reality and fantasy.
The piece is shrouded in theory and romance of post apocalypse, existentialism and escapism. Tweeting about his work, Benjamin wrote, ‘The idea of inverting the sky came from Tarkovsky’s Ivan’s childhood.’ And it is very much this honesty that drives the aesthetics of the piece. One can walk beyond the streets and find themselves among discarded buildings, stray textures, unusable objects. And then further. Walk to the end of the map, to the very edge of everything: if you fall, and I suggest you do, make sure to look up…watch the world drifting further and further away, until the artist’s creation appears as nothing but a distant planet in a vacuous matt grey, textureless sky…
This issues and concepts raised in this exhibition all merit considerable discussion, however, most of all I feel compelled to point out the conscious decisions of the artists to create these worlds. The idea that we remove our selves from reality everyday, when one steps back to contemplate, is concerning. Through video games, mindless television programmes, films, – images of the world we’re leaving behind – we lose ourselves and our position in reality. The act of creating these places of escape seems to be on a different level all together. Like leading a revolution; someone needs to take the first steps, make the posters and shout something loudly. I feel as though creating these places, these pieces, doesn’t only allow escape, but clearly points out that we actively search for the means, making this exhibition a rather loud cultural statement.
You don’t need reality to find something ‘real’. You cannot escape, even by escaping.