Sunday, March 18, 2012

Anya Gallacio

I have recently discovered the work of artist Anya Gallaccio and have been particularly interested by the temporal, theatrical, participatory and site specific nature of her work. As the materials that she uses often interact with the senses and decay over time there is a sense that the work as it is experienced is happening, changing and therefore completing itself anew in each consecutive, perhaps crawling moment. With work of this kind the artist becomes a facilitator of an event, creating space for something to happen without direct control over the outcome. As Michael Archer commented 'beauty is not engineered, fashioned, crafted, but it is ushered in, allowed to develop'. I have never seen any of Gallaccio's work for myself but I wonder whether the aliveness is tangible and creates an effect of being more present and alert in the moment.

Her work often involves using floor space either by pouring material onto the floor or laying a collection of composite parts in collection on the floor like roses or oranges. The horizontality of this placement disrupts the visual order of the gallery space where work is traditionally hung at eye level on the wall. Whilst suggesting a kind of humility or 'inconspicuous presence', it has also been said that by locating her work on the floor, Anya Gallacio encourages her audience to use the other senses rather than relying solely on sight. Whilst her work often activates the senses, particularly smell, the work in turn is sometimes activated or altered by the audience walking through the exhibition space.

I like the idea that living, growing organisms can be used to create work and that what is brought into being in a piece of work also passes out of being without creating waste or the accumulation of things. I also like the aesthetic of creating a situation that is heightened and unusual, almost fantastical, yet also very much about being with the boredom of the present moment.

In Anya Gallaccio, Chasing Rainbows, Ralph Rugoff talks about the apparent effortlessness and the overall effect of simplicity in Gallaccio's work which masks the reality of hours of preparation often with a team of helpers and sometimes quite major structural interventions. He also talks about the risk and 'the possibility of failure that hovers over each of Gallaccio's installations' and it occurs to me that making work without guarantee like this, indeed making work full-stop, requires the artist to be brave and to constantly go beyond doubt. 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Zarina Bhimji @ The Whitechapel

In visiting Zarina Bhimji's exhibition at the Whitechapel recently I was particularly interested by her treatment and use of film as a fine art medium. In Yellow Patch (2011), whilst taking advantage of digital technology and shooting in HD video I would hesitate to label this piece video work as it had such a strong filmic quality to it. Perhaps due to Hollywoodian camera techniques and image quality, perhaps the soundtrack or a sense of linearity and accessibility even in the absence of narrative that gives this piece a cinematic feel. However the overriding non narrative and non documentary quality to the work emphasizes the poetry of the images and their metaphoric valency.

On entering the exhibition I was initially struck by the way in which the gallery space was infused with the sound of her films even though the films also existed as separate pieces set up in darkened viewing rooms. The effect was that the still photographs surrounding the central film piece became more sensorily atmospheric somehow and the entire oeuvre seemed to be threaded and held together through sound and the space/sensation this created alongside the visual impact of the work.

For me the most poignant theme here was the truth that all things are always, in every moment, in the process of falling apart. As things come together they are also simultaneously breaking down and that there is no still point in the middle where anything is complete or stationary. By photographing and filming the physical/architectural remnants of colonial presence in India and East Africa, Bhimji draws attention to the passing away of periods of apparent status quo or civilizations that might have seemed all powerful and secure during peak years. Although dealing with specific historical themes it seems as though the work goes beyond political or historical specificities to encompass a universal reality. In this reality the adaptability, versatility and power of nature, strengthened by the infinite possibilities of its forms like the shifting contours of a sand dune, contrast the limited and often clunky forms we construct, buildings we erect, monuments we make important and records we keep in the effort to feel safe.

Here the clicking away of long since retired clerks on type writers, the radio broadcasts of important men long since dead or the hammering of ship builders on boats now shored and inhabited by spiders, join the deep rumble of earthquakes, the haunting cries of a peacock, and the crack of an approaching thunderstorm to create a complex soundtrack of life unfolding, looping or simply flowing like a the river we return to in Yellow Patch.  


the contours of breath

Continuing on from 'chance & order' and 'squash' work, making alginate moulds of shrunken balloons, shrunken breath. Casting in wax and plaster. Injecting plaster inside balloons and peeling away the skin. I see contours and vertebrae, like backs of small life forms but do they capture the idea of moments in time solidified and the process of change made static? 

less artificial colouring, more boredom please?