‘In Arcadia’ is an exhibition of drawing, photography, kinetic sculpture and audiovisual work by artists Axel Antas, Angus Carlyle & Corrado Morgana, Gary Colclough, Barry Thompson and Mark Peter Wright.
This is an Arcadia empty of its shepherds and their music and poetry. Instead it is haunted by the soundscapes of the video works of Wright, Carlyle & Morgana and the fading wildernesses of Antas’ photography and the drawings of Colclough and Thompson. The exhibition attempts to invoke the spectre of an Arcadia, a place once of imagined pastoral contentment that has faded into something less idyllic, even sinister and disturbing.
The titles of the work reflect this. The title of Thompson’s LilyLilyLily79 is taken from an online dating website, whilst the image depicts a ”green space” near where Thompson grew up: “I used to go birdwatching over there all the time. I also discovered my sexuality there in between the pages of porn mags which decorated the inside of the dens we built there amongst the trees.”
The subtitle of Carlyle & Morgana's In Arcadia (S.T.A.L.K.E.R.) refers to a video game from which the video footage is taken. It presents a view of a tranquil wilderness, mist or smoke slowly drifting across the screen. However its source material is a violent first person shooter S.T.A.L.K.E.R Shadow of Chernobyl, a game set in a post-nuclear landscape of Chernobyl with background and terminology borrowed from the Andrei Tarkovsky film Stalker. However in In Arcadia (S.T.A.L.K.E.R.) the hostile mutant flora and fauna are conspicuously absent.
The spectre of loss, the sinister and of death haunts ‘In Arcadia’ reflecting the momento mori traditions of “Et in Arcadia ego”. Antas’ ethereal photograph Whiteout (Hill) depicts the fading relationship between ourselves and the natural environment, as if the vibrancy and effervescence of nature is decaying before our eyes. Wright’s sinister sound recordings in his video Invisible Bodies creaks and groans with the aural tension of wood, water and metal, filling the air with phantoms of our audial environment.
Switching on and off in Colclough’s sculpture, with the steady click of a slide carousel, is a drawing of a Galapagos seal. Chosen to reflect Darwin’s association with the island, it suggests a dialogue within the exhibition between the science fiction mutants of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. and the gene-environment interactions of evolutionary mutations. Two allegories of Arcadian potential.
Acadia, the naïve suggestion of a dream of the primitive simplicity of the rural, here becomes an illustration of the fugitive amongst hushed whispers of entropy.