London September Round Up

You would think the more we disappear into screens, the more we would forget about our bodies. Judging by the shows on this summer in London, the opposite seems to be the case. Whether it is the right sort of attention is another question, but it was filled with floating heads, phantom limbs and more 3D-printed objects than you can shake your e-cigarette at. Artist Will Benedict’s ‘Nuclear War: What’s in it for you?’ at Vilma Gold began with bodies on the streets of Berlin. Encountering the figurative, heavily allegorical public sculptures of Czech artist Ludmilla Seefried-Matějková from 1984-85 found in places like the facade of the criminal court, it’s as if Benedict gathered these six artists to retrospectively recreate the laden Cold War atmosphere which led to their creation. The title comes from a 1982 book informing readers about the facts of the impending fallout, and a bomb alarm echoes from a bunker built in the middle of the gallery. Inside, Seefried-Matějková’s On the Edge (1976-77) is a full-size polyester sculpture of a half-naked woman sitting on a bed, looking dejectedly into infinity. The sound comes from a small television in the corner playing KP Brehmer’s short black-and-white video Madame Butterfly (1969) reimagining Puccini’s opera as a raucous essay on transgression: at its close, we see a bottle of Coca-Cola on the ground and a communist star flashing intermittently on the screen. A naked woman walks over the bottle, squats, and begins moving up and down on top of it. This desolate bunker is surrounded by four of Brehmer’s large matter-of-fact statistic-based geographic paintings. Geography 3 Colours Localisation of Yellow/Red (1970) is a simplified map of South America with countries coloured pink, red, yellow and orange under the typeface heading ‘Investment Climate’. An adjacent key explains that Brazil in pink means ‘uncertain’, while Chile in red is ‘troubled’; Argentina and Colombia in orange, it seems, are ‘best’.

'Nuclear War: What's In It For You?', installation view, image courtesy Vilma Gold.
‘Nuclear War: What’s In It For You?’, installation view, image courtesy Vilma Gold.

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Trisha Baga: Rock

Vilma Gold, London

4 April – 30 June 2012

Trisha Baga, 'Rock' installation view, image courtesy the artist and Vilma Gold

Trisha Baga, ‘Rock’ installation view, image courtesy the artist and Vilma Gold

Trisha Baga’s three projection installations feel like a head-on collision between someone’s home video collection and the props department from Pee Wee’s Playhouse, leaving us to muse over the wreckage. Boxes, wires, and various odd objects litter the floor, while projector light casts long shadows across the gallery. A portable stereo covered in spray-on rock blocks off the bottom part of the video of Plymouth Rock (all works 2012). The eponymous rock was a stone declared (121 years after the ‘fact’) the first solid thing stood on by the Mayflower pilgrims to the USA, moved, split and repaired numerous times since then. Baga re-interprets its story as a disjointed, multi-layered sensual adventure: what appear like someone’s holiday videos – visits to the zoo, the beach, and to the Plymouth Rock itself – are digitally cut up, drawn on, subtitled, dubbed, and wiped over.  ‘My body wasn’t made for this’, a caption states, as if bemoaning its dismemberment.

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