Tuesday, 26 November 2013
Sunday, 24 November 2013
Sunday, 13 October 2013
Friday, 11 October 2013
Sunday, 6 October 2013
Wednesday, 14 August 2013
Tuesday, 30 July 2013
Turning into the first gallery space I encounter Rebecca Chesney, where her film Still in Silence floats disembodied in the darkness. Quickly scanning the interpretation I learn that this work is the result of an attempt to discover or uncover a lost Eastern European village. Looking at a flat blue sky an unseen narrator begins to tale the tale of his grandmother, an inherited story of why the village was abandoned. The reason is due to an apparently supranational occurrence, you see one day the birds stopped signing. This seems to be a more poetic and somehow simpler explanation that attempting to describe the probable and complex social-economic reasons behind the flight. The birds stopped singing and the silence became unbearable. As the short (8 mins) film plays I make associations with the film Stalker, maybe it's a lazy association as both feature journeys through abandoned East European landscapes. I hope that it isn't as sallow as that, I think I see an echo of the narrative of Tarkovsky's film, that there was an unnameable need to discover and question in Chesney that prompted her to discover this village as much as the trio of characters search the zone to answer question which stem from within.
Maybe I'm over romanticising it but there is an element of romance in Chesney's piece which fuses the object collected from site and displayed with the film with a fetishistic melancholia.
Leaving that space I take the path of least resistance and find myself in gallery 2. To be confronted or greeted by a number of reoccurring images of a woman of unnerving and fragile beauty. These are paintings by Hannah Wooll these are portraits of a woman, or women I recognise somehow if it wasn't for the too wide eyes or the apparent hints at an animalistic nature. When looking at these portraits I cannot help but see them as portraits of the unnamed female character from Anna Kavan's novel Ice. Not only does she looks like the mental image I had of that character (the source of my recognition?) there's something within these paintings that makes me think of her a character pursued by two facets of the male protagonists imagination, trapped and turned in a fragile creature by the gaze and imagination of this man. This is how I feel when looking at these portraits that somehow my gaze fixes, alters this unnamed woman.
On the other side of Wooll's painting are the photographs of Tadhg Devlin, which feature people in transit at a point which is never here or there. The photographs are taken on board a ferry 12 miles into its journey at a point where the ferry is always 12 miles away from the horizon. That's an interesting concept as Devlin's photographs are an exploration of immigration and knowing that this photographs were taken at this point connects them to a human need to find out what is beyond the horizon. An age old desire to leave the village and search for better, a poetic exploration of the on-going need for movement, whether that is spurred by longing or more pragmatic social-economic forces. Not unlike the grandmother leaving the village after the loss of birdsong in Still in Silence. Though this train of thought comes from reading the interpretation and looking at the photographs, otherwise you could be looking at some well-produced reportage.
There is another artist in this space behind the images of people looking to the horizon there are some rather strange looking sculptures. They look like pieces of paper idly rolled and shaped into forms; they could be products of your own fidgety hands if they had been scaled up. These are the deceptively simple sculptures of Dave Evans where a large sheet of paper becomes an alien landscape complete with tin foil boulders. Before I can really consider them I quickly fixate on two of the titles. The Lights of Zetar and The Empath are Star Trek episodes and in particular they are episodes from the third, final and often derided season. I really want to know why these episodes from that season it opens up a possible dialogue with the work which is solely 'artistic' or can be define with the realms of artistic discourse, which feels kind of healthy. If you get what I mean.
Continuing into Gallery 3 where for the next two weeks you'll find Kai-Oi Jay Yung. I find her currently undertaking a lesson in Yoga, which creates not unsurprisingly an atmosphere of quiet contemplation. It also adds to the feeling I've enter an private space, a rehearsal room or studio space, especially when tip toeing around you see the objects you would expect to find in an artist studio. Relevant texts, books and things like laptops and CD players. I have a strange sensation I think about Rosalind Nashashibi's film that formed part of the Northern Art Prize this year where members of the public where allowed access to dance rehearsals. I realise that I'm currently in the same position I've been granted access to Jay Yung's private process. Fundamentally this is work in progress the experiences and interaction that take place in here with eventually take form in a performance at a later date, at the moment I as viewer can actually see that mythical phase of an artist's process referred to as 'research'.
Leaving Jay Yung to her research I head upstairs where what looks like a flight deck from a spaceship waits. This is an installation by 0point3recurring. Three bucket seats sit open faced at different views of the iconic Preston bus station. In one I notice three brightly coloured cars positioning themselves in the car park that form the roof of the bus station and I settle into one of the seats. That action set into a motion a film taken from within cars that could be mistaken for gaudy trainers. It also sees the beginning of a soundtrack that has been generated by the movement of the car as it travels through Preston. It emulates the kind of bass that appears to radiate from these cars naturally I'm a voyeur voyager having an indication of the experience of what might be termed 'da yoof' as the cars drives through the pre-car red brick building sending out electronic pulses, like some modified technologic animal searching for others of its species. Naturally, for me, the mixture of modernist architecture and car culture make my thoughts gravitate towards J.G Ballard. I can imagine this experience in his terms as modern technology connects with some primal need, in this case the need for tribalism and the significance of place, to form some new and possibly liberating culture.
Later it occurs to me that there is little difference in the people involved in Modz culture gathering in car parks or the people who gather at Stonehenge during mid-summer. Both reacting in ingrained needs to belong to something and to attach meaning to place.
This is the final piece I see, feel, experience and usually at this point there comes the time when I as critic judge the individual work against the conceptual ideas that have underpinned the exhibition. In order to judge its relative success. Of course as I stated at the beginning this does not wholly apply to this exhibition, I say not wholly as if there is any overarching ambition to this exhibition it is the one of showcasing the range and the skillz of a number of North West artists. On those terms it would be hard to say anything other than the exhibition is a success. Also a one of those 'critic' types, I have to admit that it has been enjoyable to engage with individual pieces of art, feeling that you where addressing individual artists.
Sunday, 28 July 2013
Tuesday, 16 July 2013
Sunday, 14 July 2013
Monday, 3 June 2013
Boredom that thing that encompasses us from time to time, envelopes you with that sensation that you really should be doing something, shouldn't you? Well you would if everything wasn't devoid of interest. It may sound like a contradiction but from boredom there often comes creation; a prime example would be Bowie's Sound and Vision. It's this paradox where boredom meets unbored that is the theme of The Royal Standards 'Black Sun Horizon' exhibition.
A collection of four video pieces which deal with this concept. Take Samuel Williams piece Natural Habitat where a camera is dragged around in a homemade dolly through a small scale landscape. Watching the video you get the sense that this is something done to fill in time, the journey of the camera has no other aim then its own existence. So there's a combination of boredom and means here, an equation of time plus materials equals something, the kind of downtime where people make sculptures from Kit Kats.
This equation is also present in Dick Jewell's and to a degree Corey Arcangel's pieces which employ editing software to manipulate the elements from the sea of digital transmissions. Looking at these pieces I begin to consider whether having access to all this methods of creation will lead to a vacuum of choice, being able to produce something may not lead to something being produced. That maybe this is my subjective laziness, laziness that close relation to boredom.
Something occurs to me as I watch various edited cats bash out a Schonenberg piece, I begin to think about the many stupidly clever internet videos out there (including this one) and how they exist simply to be, to distract and pass time for both the creator and viewer. At poses a question if so many people are creating stuff which serves simply to elevate boredom and has no life outside of that remit what happens after that? Is more to be created to continually fill the space then are we stuck will a lot of distracting yet empty culture?
It's a possibility, boredom is a motivator yet it mustn't be the sole motivator for it happens as quickly as it can be quenched.
Friday, 22 March 2013
If I'm honest most of my time spent in Chester has been swayed towards digging in Charity Shops. Rarely do I make a purely cultural visit to the city, well not since the Toy Museum closed. This week sees artists taking up residence in various empty shops across the city under the banner Rogues Galleries. Its aim seems to be to explore the nature of the commodification of well just about everything and the value of things. I hear the word performance drifting down from on the row above me I have first reached my first stop.
Upon entering I'm cheerful greeted and have the goings on explained. I quickly head upstairs to directly meet a man dressed in an ill-fitting suit, who has the practiced joviality of any salesman. This is Harry Giles who is offering a free debt counselling service for visitors today. I accept his offer and he takes me into his office, where the walls are covered in scrawl and graphs and numbers, like the Cave Painting edition of PowerPoint. Mr Giles begins to throw out some jargon and gets me to think what I owe people and what people owe me. I realise that this is something that I don't really think about. Mr Giles gets me to visualise my debt as a 'monster' and I select a distant shuffling zombie, which is precisely how a like to think about my debt off in the distance awaiting a kill shot which will solve my financial problems. Which makes me feel strangely better. If this performances aim is to make the participant to think about what is meant by debt it done that to a degree, on reflection I wonder if a view of how other people dealt with their debt may of have a greater impact.
Still I feel pretty better about handling my debt.
I have a brief look at the videos on display there well-made but none really sing to me. If I'm honest I've come with a performance bias.
Talking of which I fall into Two Destination Language's piece Storyville, it seems like I've walked into their living room. For their piece they have brought all their belongs and have offered them for sale. These items have been in storage so have been existing in a value status. If an object is not interacted with does its value change, does the inaccessibility of the object increase said objects value. These are the questions that come from my conversation with the artists, they engagingly tell me of the histories behind certain objects and I'm happy to discuss these values. We agree about the value of homemade objects. As I sit there surrounded by the collected objects created by peoples passage through life I begin to make connections with the Mark Leckey exhibition at The Bluecoat. Both speak of the alchemy that occurs when value, whether it be cultural, personal or monetary, becomes attached to an object.
I also have to admit there is a slight voyeuristic thrill in going through someone stuff.
Before leaving I have a quick game of Fruit and Veg chess, as the rules change I become aware of how quickly my attitude to having and losing things change along with them. Though an actual working knowledge of chess might have helped.
It's on to The Scrivener's based in the old Odeon cinema. Here I find a small space where Octopi ribbons of paper hang in the air, while a lady types away in the shops window. These are two pieces which deal with the value of words of the cost of communication, what are words worth. The typist in the window is Rowan Lear or The Scrivener she has set herself the task of transcribing an old book of Chester's history. She injects her own thought about the city and what is happening directly in front of her, collapsing two histories into each other. I feel that this piece is about the value of writing of the production of words, of how we transcribe meaning through the written word. Through that it also touches on the different forms of memory and how valuable that is and whether history can be commoditised.
Sharing this space is Heard Words a machine which spits out words, well tries to make sense of the word inputted into it. Speaking into a microphone your words are decoded or recoded by an invisible machine who spits out what it thinks you said. What comes out of the machine is quite often radically different to what went in; it's like a machine which converts everyday speech into beat poetry. I can't help but thing of Burroughs and Gysin as this mashed up beat poem forms in coils around my feet. The whole thing feels like a celebration of gibberish, a point towards the fallacy of words and therefore if communication can become this confused then where is its true value? It's also one of those pieces where the technology used to produce it provides fascination rather than distraction.
I stand outside reading Rowan's words and looking at Simon Faried's collected newspapers before moving on.
I am heading towards the Grosvenor Centre, all plastic shiny facades to find The Haberdashery. It's a little quiet I gravitate towards Anoushka Athique's Repair Stations. A small confession when I read about this piece I thought it will be a great opportunity to get my button sewn back onto my jacket. It's a simple piece where Athique will repair something you own in exchange for a story. It's odd coming up with a story and like many of the other people before me I come up with a 'story' that is about my personal history in relation to Chester. If you're wondering my first date at the now defunct Odeon. As I attempt to tale my story there's something at the back of my mind which makes me think about the history of storytelling and how this apparently unassuming piece is somehow connected to a grand history, of a different time when a tale was currency. Or is that just a myth?
I had arrived too late to catch Secret Door Theatre, and Kate Gater-Davies sound piece doesn't really engage me it feels like it can be developed more or needs to be presented in a different way.
Before I leave altogether I return to take part in Two Language Destinations auction, where the artist's engage and amuse. We also get to see subjective value of objects in action especially when an expensive piece of fabric fails to meet expectations and is sadly removed from the auction. I also get a really nice chocolate as well.
So what did I think of Rouges Galleries as a whole, well I found some interesting and involving works and I felt that the works fitted within the overall theme. Whether it was my bias towards the performance pieces I found the installation pieces to be less engaging or seemingly not as developed as the performance pieces. On the bus ride home I wonder what ambitions Chester Performs have for future versions of Rogues Galleries a North Western version of the Fierce or In-between Time Festivals? If so then this is something our cultural hubs of Liverpool and Manchester should be aware of.
Monday, 25 February 2013
Monday, 4 February 2013