Matt’s Gallery, 10 September – 14 December 2014
Peter Liversidge, Sign Paintings, 2015. Image courtesy the artist.
It is a place, the man says, that is ‘able to inspire messages. Full of energy, full of feeling’. You hear this sitting alone at a desk, wearing headphones, surrounded by high piles of boxes, innumerable files and dusty bits and bobs in the storage area of the gallery. Bronwen Buckeridge’s sound work Occasionally Employing Magic, 2014, is a conversation recorded in situ between the gallery’s archivist and some sort of spiritualist apparently hired to give advice on how to manage the not inconsiderable accumulations from over three decades of exhibitions. The man notes that the spirits in the building have been shifting some boxes: ‘they’re not happy with it all packed away in here.’ Outside, the facade of the building is covered in cardboard with messages scribbled in black paint, creating a jumbled graffiti of facts and commentary. One of Peter Liversidge’s Sign Paintings, 2014, helpfully informs us, ‘Matt’s Gallery is a contemporary art space situated on Copperfield Road in Bow East London. Its director, Robin Klassnik OBE, opened the gallery in his studio in 1979 on Martello Street, before moving premises to Bow in 1993. The gallery is named after Klassnik’s dog, Matt E Mulsion.’ Further down is a list of names that by the end of the exhibition listed 39 people. These transmissions all form part of ‘Revolver II’, which was, on the surface, a set of three month-long exhibitions curated by Klassnik and Michael Newman, featuring installations by ten artists, punctuated by countless ‘trailers’, performances and a bookshop, involving over 50 artists all told. But what is clear, from the shouting signs at the entrance to the trails the works lead you from the back rooms up to the roof, is that ‘Revolver II’ is more about Matt’s Gallery narrating itself.
Continue reading →
‘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.
Continue reading →
Matt’s Gallery - White Cube - Michael Werner - Carlos/Ishikawa
‘Some lines shouldn’t be crossed’, ran the tagline for Joel Schumacher’s hammy 1990 thriller Flatliners. In the film, the vision of the afterlife momentarily encountered by the daredevil medical students is one of guilt, each haunted by past actions. The by-now familiar melodramatic scenes of near-death experiences (NDEs) – out of body perspectives, lights at the end of tunnels, encounters with long-gone kin – are all there. If Kiefer Sutherland being dead, even if just for 12 minutes, wasn’t enough for you though, you could find all the NDE tropes laid out in long form in Susan Hiller’s installation Channels, 2013, at Matt’s Gallery. A babble of voices streams from a wall of TVs and aged monitors, either blank, static or a solid blue screen, as if we have managed to stumble upon the same after-hours channel as the little girl in Poltergeist, 1982. Gradually an audible voice emerges from the noise, recounting their disembodiment, or feelings of universality and so forth. Despite the supposed insight of the confessional format, hearing a series of personal recountings in succession renders them generic, as though Hiller is not interested in the individual peculiarities of the stories themselves, underscored by their delivery with the flat over-enunciation of a voice actor. The barrier of screens reinforces this: it is a line we literally cannot cross. Hiller’s way of providing the collection of anecdotes acknowledges that whether they are true or not is not the issue but, rather, that we are well aware of these stories via any number of media sources, like Flatliners, The Twilight Zone or The X-Files.
Continue reading →