Thursday, 22 November 2012

Liverpool Biennial 2012, Tate/Open Eye

Outside the Tate there's a strange pavilion, if you go around dusk you'll see the sides of this pavilion shining with the bright faces of the great and good of the creative industries. This is Doug Aitken's The Source a project to locate the source of creativity, though it's an admiral attempt but after a few minutes I have no new insights into creativity.

Anyway inside to where the rest of the art is. I recall when I first visited the Tate during the opening weeks of the Biennial where my thoughts where that the exhibition was much smaller then pervious Biennials. Was this due the a overlap with the blockbusting Turner Monet Twombly exhibition, maybe. Maybe it's a reflection that this exhibition, Thresholds to give its proper name, will be here long after framework of the Biennial has been removed. Maybe that just my perception. Whatever it's a good exhibition with some great pieces including Kader Attia's meditation on the corrupting influence of oil in his video Oil and sugar. My highlight of the exhibition is A Travel without Visual Experience by Pak Sheung Cheun, where you are invited to explore a dark room by means of a camera flash. I enjoyed the simple action of using the camera flash in order to navigate myself around the room, while that action made regard the fallacy of using a camera in order to capture a moment.

In the cameras flash everything becomes clear, knowable, yet the result of that becomes clear as on the cameras view screen you see a corner of a frame or simply nothing. On leaving the space I asked what happened to the images taken with the Tate provided cameras only to be disappointed to discover that they were all erased. It occurred to me that this collect of photos would expand on the issues of the piece and touch on questions about the changing nature of the photograph in a world of Facebook and Tumblr.

Of course less than a stone's throw away from the Tate is the Open Eye. Wherein there are pieces which also explore the nature of looking, watching, how and why we watch. Konei Yoshigui's The Park is comprised of photographs of couples in tryst's being watched by small groups of voyeurs. Youshigui enhances a sense of voyeurism by permitting the images to be viewed only by torchlight. So you enter the darken space the photographs inhabit armed with your torch to be greeted by other visitors with torches. There's an odd sensations of guilt, complicity as we all stalk in the darkness looking at images of people looking at people, fucking. The piece subtlety raises the question of why are we driven to look at images especially sexual images.

There was a point while watching the second piece, Love Hotel where I was waiting, expecting to see the grainy images of naked bodies to being moving. That these questions came to the fore as I was unsure why I was expecting these images to move, because they are presented on video monitors? Some need for titillation perhaps? I'm still unsure but I had to consider what the Gallery Assistant much make of someone like me taking a little too much time in considering the work. Again caught in the infinite regression that is our need to see and be seen.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Paul Rooney – Here Comes Franz, VG&M Liverpool

There's a moment in Paul Rooney's film 'The Futurist' where the main character recounts a story about being transported to a new land on a slave ship. Though it's apparent that this character has never experienced these events, he is clearly haunted by them.

This sense of been haunted permeates Paul Rooney's exhibition at the VG&M. A haunting brought on perhaps by the conflict between the layers of meaning that we subject the world we inhabit to. Whether we attribute these meanings to a historical, cultural or personal context there would seem an inherent issue to applying these tags to one place. It would appear to become some act of magick and ritual of sort in order to solidify a sense of meaning in the world around and through that a sense of meaning within ourselves.

In the piece Small Talk, a piece of liminal space, in this case an petrol garage on the edge of a field. The act of filming and the act of watching imbues that footage with meaning. Of course this meaning is subjective provided in part by the narrative subtitles which reference films (in this case a scene in the The Umbrellas of Cherbourg set at a garage) I guess this another case of apophenia the need to find meaning in unconnected things. This isn't a bad thing it can provide the world with a sense of magic and wonder, for example the shot of a waning moon over the garage edges the mundane with the sense of the supranational.

There is the sense of the supranational within this exhibition, in this case when I mean supranational I'm thinking of the world of David Lynch or of Kurbick's The Shining. How else could a tree tell of its own destruction? Rooney's work is about the worlds between worlds (the German's call it zwischenwelten) of people and objects that are at once trapped and liberated by their situations allowed to be defined by and define the limits of their worlds.


Monday, 19 November 2012

The Monro, Liverpool Biennial 2012

Up some creaky stairs, pass some haunted looking portraits, there seems to be something supranational going on upstairs at The Monro. Where two un-homely hotel rooms created by Markus Kahre, they wait like a vacuum to be filled by the presence of the viewer. I think by this point you probably know the punch line to this piece, the un-mirroring mirrors. During my first visit I did stand in front of the mirror moving my arms around in some strange attempt to activate the mirror. Like with most optical illusions it relies on your brain being set to a narrow band of information, in this case that if it looks like mirror then I will be reflected within it. I wonder if this piece called No Title is about the whole super-modernity concept where in the replication of environments such as chain hotels, airports etc. Makes it hard for the individual to gain a hold within that world and therefore becomes invisible.

Sharing the space above The Monro are Dane Mitchell's Spectral Recordings. When I first heard about this piece I was intrigued by the poetic and enchanting idea of capturing words into glass. Facing the speech bubbles I felt I little disappointed. Well perhaps not disappointed but while looking at these exhalations I really want to hold them to feel the vibrations of the caught voices. Ultimately I want to smash them open, to hear the voices inside, I imagine the twinkle of shattering glass followed by the gasping squeal of the voice released to the ether. I think somewhere within my desire to undertake this act of destruction is the desire to complete a cycle to allow the imprisoned voices to possess another human.

Before I leave there is Janine Antoni's Umbilical which I initially mistook for some strange instrument of mediumship, an instrument to communicate to another world. In a very strange way this might be partly true Umbilical is a cast of the artists mouth which is connected to a cast of the artists mothers hand. The piece seems to be channelling the inexpressible feelings created by the parental bonds. Two bodies joined by the delicate and un-nameable bond of love.

The works at The Monro carry their own poetry they speak of the spirits which inhabit us all and of the spirit we leave behind. The ghosts we form with our memories of the places we inhabit, the people we contact, of what we are and who we will be,

Monday, 12 November 2012

John Moores Painting Prize 2012

I had a go at the John Moores Critics Award needless to say it wasn't shortlisted…

OK, where do I begin?

I've decided to write about the John Moore's Painting Prize and now how do I approach the work on display. I've already thought about my approach, imagined myself climbing up the steps and through the galleries of previous contemporary paintings. Do they form a funnel, a line which is directing me to now?

Will I be bias? I'm an artist but never painted, I did my training at a university which specifically ignored painting until financial pressure prevailed.

Once I enter the dedicated space how I'm I to look at the individual paintings comparing each painting to the one next to it, as my fellow visitors appear to be doing. People stop at each painting consider it and move on. I wonder what's going on in their minds what questions bubble up as they move through the space. How do they compare an excited gestural mark to a carefully placed line?

Like me do they have perceptions of what makes up painting, are they here to have those perception confirmed, denied or altered.

Like me do they attempt to see the exhibition as a whole, carefully studying the paintings for clues which point towards the state of the contemporary painting? In doing so do I congratulate myself for being able to identify the contextual soup from which the paintings emerge. Look there's a bit of Modernism there, Surrealism there, forms of Minimalism other there and so on.

Well the answer, as so often seems to happen, lays somewhere in between. Thinking about the answer actually points to something more important, a shift in attitudes towards painting that's been underway for the last sixty years or so. A shift in the relationship between viewer and artist, it would seem that the painter's authority isn't absolute. The painter isn't simply saying my work is about X and this is all you should see rather contemporary painting seems to want an opening of a dialogue between the viewer and artist.

So as a viewer I'm no longer in a passive position I must take an active role in decoding the work in front of me. For Example Dougal McKenzie's piece Otl's Gift seems to defy any conventional sense of the term painting, as is it constructed from a 70's dress and two images. It's if the artist has collected or collaged objects which he know will activate a set off a sense of nostalgia within the viewer without pointing to a specific moment. While questioning the physical nature of constitutes painting.

Of course there is a danger in this as in this dialogue there is an assumption that both parties know exactly what each other is talking about. In a way this dialogue is a request from the artist for the viewer to perform an act of trust that the artist isn't trying to pull a fast one. This sensation is pushed to its limits by Matt Welch's painting which references the founder of Ikea's involvement with the Nazi movement. All I see is blocks of splodged paint I kind which I could have the reaction of the man stood next to me as he seems to get the joke.

I know what you're thinking surely there are more than two paintings in this exhibition. Well Yes. I want to reassure you the reader that in between these works there is the spectrum which marks what makes up this thing called contemporary painting. John Moore's is an excellent survey of the concerns of anyone picking up a paintbrush today, I could have spent this article listing painters but somehow that didn't seem right. Earlier I said the works open a dialogue between you as viewer and themselves and like finding yourself in room full of people you will find yourself warming to some, amused by others, struck by the beauty of some and completely annoyed with one or two.

Ultimately you as the viewer need to be within that room, to engage in that dialogue. It's the best way to learn how to approach this thing called art.