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.