Olivier Ruellet, "Ferro Scape"
Disinformation and Usurp, "London Underground"
Liminal: A Question of Position
11 March - 25 April 09
- M.O. Berger, sawdustreview.wordpress.org
There are some big ideas here. Probably too big, but the effort is inspirational in itself. Liminal starts with a story - one artist meets another artist, a spark of connection, a gathering of other like-minded artists, a collaboration. The ideas have to do with architecture - the information architecture of digital media, the physical architecture of the city, the cooperative architecture of relationships. Power is decided and constructed through these architectures. But what these ideas seem to promise is not fulfilled here; "the question of position" is never fully explored.
Downstairs, the gallery is clear and open. The big door slides back and places you in a foyer just as airy as the alley outside. The boundary between outside and inside, upstairs and downstairs, one room and the next is glossed over. Or is supposed to be. The gallery notes say architect David Andjaye "suggests that the spaces within the building should exist in a non-hierarchical relationship with each other." This is a fascinating idea and I am all for examining the relationship between the gallery and its art, but ultimately Liminal only skims the surface of this idea.
The works in this downstairs space are installation-scale, yet they do not command one's attention. They blend in a bit too smoothly with the space in which they are contained. The show is a collaboration of sorts by artists whose interests revolve around digital media and the urban environment, and so influences on each other's work is to be expected. Likewise, one of the ideas behind the show is that it would itself be a part of the outside environment, that the works would interact both with the audience inside and the audience walking by the big windows on the street outside. But they seem to just blend in to each other and that outside environment. Interaction is theme here as there are several works that give the viewer the power to modify them. This is certainly somewhat interesting - and thus the galley is worth a quick visit - but aside from being mildly fun it leaves unanswered the questions the show set out to answer.
Upstairs is more interesting. In a closed-door room with two rows of benches and a giant projection screen, Disinformation and Usurp's "London Underground" (2009) plays. It is made up of recordings of magnetic field interference caused by the Underground accompanied by scratchy color images of the trains. As the interference screeches, one cannot help but feel sorry for the gallery attendent sitting in the back corner, but also the slow realization that you are looking at the same thing you look at every day - black tunnel walls, ads and people zipping by - only now these are on display rather than the backdrop of some iPod daze, squeezed-in and humiliated after an honest day's work.
On the same screen, Olivier Ruellet's "Ferro Scape" (2008) comes up next. It is a white background with dark wires and telephone poles zipping above a train. Sitting in the front row, one's shadow becomes part of the projection and that familiar-looking silhouette head head travels down the animated train line. Tunnels are passed through and a catchy beat of mechanical Tube sounds plays throughout. It is a rather enjoyable journey until you realize there is nothing here but black and white and wires and forward progress. In the end, a station is reached (Shepherd's Bush) and, with it, the city, where claustrophic streets and lifeless walls are an understood, and thus comfortable, way of life.
There are interesting concepts here which certainly deserve to be explored and all these artists, I think, are quite young, so I am sure they will be. But the works here, at least downstairs, are dry and only scratch the surface of the ideas that have inspired them. The most important thing, though, is to be inspired by interesing ideas - rather than creating pieces that are pretty but mute - so at least they have that.
Gallery tours and workshops: http://www.rivingtonplace.org/events
Olivier Ruellet: http://www.ctrl-n.net/en
Iniva, who is curating and producing the show (and who is Rivington Place by another name): http://www.iniva.org/exhibitions_projects/2009/liminal#