‘No one has ever tried to establish chaos as a system, or to let it come,’ claimed sound artist Henri Chopin in his 1967 polemic against the hegemony of the intelligible word, ‘Why I am the author of Sound Poetry and Free Poetry’. ‘Undoubtedly there would be more alive beings and fewer dead beings, such as employees, bureaucrats, business and government executives, who are all dead and who forget the essential thing: to be alive.’ Talking sense, writing sense – to him it was all making us ignore the strange and wonderful sounds and irrational ways of communicating we have at our disposal. While Chopin’s work is currently on view in Colchester’s Firstsite, his anti-sensible, divergent-sensory spirit could be found zipping around London, albeitin the guise of plastic bags, tree leaves and green goo. The small group show ‘Flow’ at Peles Empire perhaps spoke most directly of the lives of the bureaucrats and executives Chopin derides, making use of the generic advertising imagery and stiflingly managed environments these ‘dead’ people might inhabit. Eric Bell and Kristoffer Frick’s Generator (front), 2014, is a sterile portrait of a small, egg-shaped machine that claims to be an ‘Ozone Generator’. On Not Yet Untitled, 2014, one of the small mechanisms is mounted on a blank sheet of white polyurethane foam, whirring away, supposedly pumping ozone into the gallery. The gizmo is sold as an air purifier for stuffy office environments; it doesn’t smell any different (I find out afterwards direct inhalation is harmful) and the sound of its rush is the type of white noise that is initially calming but soon becomes disconcerting. Crammed in the corner are two PCs set on a cheap chipboard table; complete with flimsy fold-out chairs, rough lino on the floor and crappy headphones, the means of presentation for Lloyd Corporation’s video Form follows feeling, 2014, is a scarily accurate recreation of the cramped, rushed constructions of an internet cafe. The two flatscreen monitors alternate in flashing up unconnected, well-composed images of mountains, a rocking chair and several scenes of electronics being assembled. In one section, we see in close-up a cigarette lit by a heated filament, hearing the low crackle of the burn but no other movement or breath as nobody is there to smoke it. Between the works, it feels like a place not just abandoned but creepingly hinting at designed spaces that are actually working against us. ‘Flow’ holds a compact mirror to the corporate atmosphere, and finds that it is slowly pushing us out of the picture, or killing us off altogether.
Cartel, ASC Gallery, George and Jørgen, Jonathan Viner Gallery
‘When preparing a disappearance and identity change, it is best to consider who might be looking for you and the means they are likely to employ trying to find you.’ Wise words, lifted from Doug Richmond’s manual How to Disappear, reprinted in Bik Van der Pol’s publication The Disappearance Piece, 1998-, as part of the group show Last Day at Cartel curated by Paul O’Neill. Richmond’s advice also comes as a handy insight, not so much into O’Neill’s show itself but into his curatorial approach. Positing the phrase ‘curatorial constellation’, O’Neill has attempted in his work to disperse the definition of the work of the curator among a range of activities in and outside of the gallery space. When it comes to actually making an exhibition, then, O’Neill seeks to dissolve the curator as directing auteur and instead promote the group show itself as a medium. The show at Cartel ostensibly has a ‘theme’, its starting point a found painting with the words ‘Last Day’ which becomes more of a gravitational centre around which a range of responses and approaches by 13 artists can cluster and then slowly drift away from. This is best exemplified in Mark Hutchinson’s On The Last Day, 2012, a list of 26 statements hand painted in blood red on the outside of Cartel’s black container. They riff on the ways you could conceive what ‘last day’ might mean, from ‘Different endings are always conceivable’ to the slightly more pessimistic, ‘Melancholia, the large blue planet, relentlessly pursues Earth through space until it engulfs the Earth, obliterating it’. Luckily some of the works get away from this literal response to the brief, and where the exhibition starts to get interesting is the communication and tangling between the works themselves. Håkon Holm-Olsen’s small triptych of black-and-white collages unassumingly feels like the real gravitational centre of the show; in Logic, 2012, kids play with shapes on the desks in front of them while wooden blocks float in the air above, like a snapshot from a Steiner school for telekinetics. These shapes undergo a dream-transformation to Rhona Byrne’s oversized tangle of thin black balloons It’s All Up in the Air, 2011, hovering over a calm seascape in one photo, and which also hung as a sculpture over the gallery on the opening night.