Gangsta's Paradise

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© Courtesy of the artist and Standpoint
© Courtesy of the artist & Hayward Gallery Projects Space
Gangsta's Paradise
Curated by: Tom Morton

Southbank Centre
Belvedere Road
London SE1 8XX
United Kingdom
August 4th, 2010 - September 19th, 2010
Opening: August 4th, 2010 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM

london bridge, southbank
+44 20 7960 5226
Mon 12-6; Tue-Wed,Sat-Sun 10-6; Thu-Fri 10-8
gigantism, historical, Cultural, moral photography, mixed-media, sculpture


In her first solo exhibition at a major institution, the British artist Jess Flood-Paddock (b.1977) presents a sculptural scenario that explores the historical and cultural specificity of moral behaviour, populist self-help texts, the links between anthropology and infotainment, and the comedy and tragedy of scale - specifically gigantism. Often concerned with the questions of what (and even who) it is acceptable to eat, the show takes its title from the 1995 Coolio song Gangsta's Paradise. The phrase suggests a post-Utopia period – an Eden for the strong, or those willing to ignore the social contract in favour of naked self-interest.

Curving around the gallery, a painted canvas backdrop recalls the 'edge of the world' as presented in the 1998 film The Truman Show, in which the title character unknowingly lives his whole life in an idyllic bubble environment as the star of a globally consumed reality TV show. Breaking through this backdrop with one of its cumbersome claws, a monstrous sculpture of a lobster dominates the Project Space. A symbol of human selfishness - as the writer David Foster Wallace has asked: 'Is it alright to boil a sentient creature alive just for our gustatory pleasure?' – it seems caught in a moment of dim and melancholy realisation that its life is not its own.

In the back room of the Project Space, a 2-metre tall replica of the athlete Michael Johnson's autobiography-cum-self-help book Slaying the Dragon (1996) offers advice, although what light this contemporary superman might shed on our everyday woes is open to question. Elsewhere, found images of Giant German Grey Rabbits hint at the sorry fate 12 of these creatures met when they were bought by North Korea in 2007 and allegedly graced Kim Jong-il's table rather than being bred, as originally intended, to feed his starving subjects. Another questionable meal is evoked by a reproduction of an invitation to dinner issued by the Victorian anthropologist Alfred Cort Haddon on the occasion of his return from his 1888 expedition to the Torres Strait, illustrated with Haddon's own photograph of a group of indigenous men which he has captioned (with nothing in the way of supporting evidence) 'cannibals'. Finally, a snapshot of the shop front of cheap North London clothing boutique in its concluding hours of trading during the recent recession announces 'Utopia Last Day'. We are now, Flood-Paddock suggests, living in fallen times – a 'Gangsta's Paradise'.