Review by Pascal Ancel Bartholdi
Among many mobile sites of morbid origins, a crowd immersed itself in conversation, oblivious to the zoophical signs, the portrayals of decay and morosity, the vampiric outpourings, the dismembered cadavers, the distorted genitalia, the subtle torture instruments, the inquisitional glimpses. This was a plethora of Victorian oddities, the same objects we will find in the Last Tuesday Society, the Natural History Museum, or some other tiny shop hidden in the guts of a city eating its own past with ferocity. We wondered in these sanitised entrails… The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari without ever coming across the solution to a gothic puzzle that pursues the primitive imagination…can this severed hand move again? Can this coagulated blood flow once more?…can this man walk again despite a missing head? There is humour and there are humours. We are partly seduced by the sexual profligacy oozing out of this dissonant assemblage of innuendos to a past we wish for when the present seems so dull.
Miranda Benzies invites us to recall the Surrealists, Paul Delvaux, De Chirico, Max Ernst and even Dali.
Cedric Laquieze traps meticulous insects under four cloches, they may hold secrets from fantasy movies, nearby, a bird cage contains the skeleton of a sheep…or some other such animal…a winged skull, with spine still attached, a thermometer tied to its base and two fledglings, glistening with the arrested process of decomposition. Above, a cat fur, scalped only yesterday?…in its centre, a form resembling a vaginal caricature. Further, a figure, doll size, resembles the Mexican effigies of the departed…carried in farandoles during their celebration of death. The skeleton is covered in flowers. Incidentally , this brings back memories of an insurgent piece I felt compelled to create for an Easter show at Art school some years ago. I borrowed a life size skeleton and dressed it in an elegant silk indigo dress, placed a cigarette between its angular jaws, somehow emphasising its ironic smile, and adorned it with a long boa of colourful fake flowers. Needless to say absolute silence surrounded it, elevating me to the fulgurant role of the censored revolutionary voice, a great success I thought.
Louise Riley creates an optical illusion, a hologram image of Apple Test performer…Another piece looks like a luxurious piece of quilt, a thin-laced mattress that could turn into a flying carpet for Casanova and his concubines.
Martha Zmpounou shows deceptively two-dimensional works, multi media pieces gathering drawing, painting, and collage techniques. These are standing out, less obvious, more suggestive and beautiful. A second piece on paper attracts attention. Chaotic elements are intertwined as if a head, suggested, had exploded into enigmatic angular structures, drowned in reds and pinks, where the face of a woman can just be discerned.
Santiago Carouso also offers a more aesthetic experience with drawings, black and white, red and sepia man /angel/demon with a city on his head. Then the skull in profile, a gun protruding from it, the head made of composite instruments and tools in the manner of Giuseppe Arcimboldo. On the jacket of the dead, a man is drawn in many positions. He looks as if he is falling into nothing. The jacket is black, he is defined only by a white outline, like that of the victims around whom a chalk line marks the last spatial event of their life.
Andrew Hladky’s paintings are especially physical, having covered the surface with what a friend described as miniature vegetation used in architectural models for city planning…or I thought, also seen in model train landscaping. This was then painted over, irregularly, and seen from a distance looked like portions of the dark cosmos lit up here and there by unpredictable flashes of consciousness…black holes lurking in the vicinity of a nebulae, dying stars beginning to self combust… constellations on death row.
Chiho Iwase Has placed a rabbit head on a plinth. It is cut right below the bottom jaw, a violent separation from the voice box. Inside its erect ears, pink hands seem to wave at us, or try and send the sound back before it reaches the cochlea. It looks like a flesh cake, like the one presented to the last of four men in La Grande Bouffe, the epic gastronomic suicide movie by Marco Ferreri (1973). He chocks on the damp sugar breasts, an end some would envy. This belies a nuanced sordid sexuality.
Jazz Szu-Ying Chen has painted an 18th century aristocrat disfigured by surgical extraordinary cosmetics. One eye looks like a fungus form growing uncontrollably, a lazy eye on the other side trails nonchalantly. Flayed skins, as one saw in The Silence of the Lamb, are superimposed on the sinister face, stuck or sewn, no one can make it out. These layers of meat are added to non-organic innards, all of which resides neatly inside an antic frame, making this a sumptuous object of morbid devotion.
Craig La Rotonda, taking his name from the infamous haunt in Montparnasse in early 1900 where Susanne Valadon, then kiki and Simone de Beauvoir brushed elbows with Gauguin, Picasso, and Man Ray to name a few incandescent characters, has produced some kind of old masterpiece. The finish is varnished, certain areas show the subcutaneous layer, as if time had eroded the surface. It seems scrapped off quite brutally in fact. The central singular figure touches her own breast while the world darkens and falls to pieces.
Charlie Tuesday Gates’ s invention is particularly sinister. Another object of curiosity, this is a skeletal rabbit ‘crucified’ inside a violin case stuck on the arm of a missing instrument that acts as a spine, its legs are raised up as if in astonishment or fright. Above its head, the skull of another animal stares out glibly. The tail of the rabbit is tied to a series of strings to its own ribs thus transforming it into a macabre harp only a golem would dare pluck.
Nick Kushner’s sepia drawing of an octopus in black mount is an elegant interlude in this orgy of sardonicism.
Vort Man has embedded a thing in resin; it looks like a crustacean, a prop for the X Files or Dark skies.
Dan Hillier’s ink image of a woman with octopus tentacles instead of feet reminds us of antic visions of Hecate and the Medusa, luring the unstable mind of the wanderer into her lair. Some of his other drawings embody the age of surrealism. Max Ernst, Leonora Carrington, Paul Delvaux once more are certainly invoked.
Franco B(http://www.franko-b.com/)has immortalised a ferret holding a black bird in his mouth. Every thing is painted black including the plinth. A second piece, a white metal chair with thin white bars has become the last immutable resting place of a taxidermized starling.
Two little figures stand on wood structures that look like scaffolds sticking out of the wall. They are more like acrobats extracted from the movie about alien abduction, Communion by Philippe Mora (1989), Dan Gomer has made them faceless, white and plasticized. They look out of place in their synthetic smoothness.
Arcane Sin shows two paintings of women with black eyes that send me back to Klimpt.
But the real key to this show was laid bare with the body of the protagonist as it was hoisted up by the flesh and pierced, intruded upon, sodomised and paraded with the full consent of Mad Alan, http://madalan.co.uk/, fully tattooed and illuminated with twisted hubris, a rictus of febrile victory on his contorted face, whose genitals had also undergone a monstrous inflation giving us the deceptive impression of a congenital deformation. This may have been divulged prior to the show, but most of the audience would probably have been ignorant of the facts. We exposed ourselves to the violence of a sensory spectacle, no preconceptions fogging our vision as we stood and sat inundated with exhalations of hell and gore. I wondered what a Victorian public would have thought or felt, gorging on the vapid eccentricities of the circus master exhibiting the object of contempt. Then, this human being would have been fully exploited, kept in a cell, a dark corner under a thick flee ridden blanket, fed rotten beans, simmering in his own faeces, one of the vermin, but a delicacy to the warped eye of the morbidly curious gentry and the populace ready to spit in his grub, at his face, and mock the hanging beast, a weeping post and a scape goat…a ghost also, a shadow of our own mortified humanity. This was the prime cut of our languid sickness, manifesting itself in this agreed conjunction between the lunar decadence of the crowd and the lugubrious seduction of the victim. Antonin Artaud may have acknowledged this scene as a moderate example of the Theatre of Cruelty(http://dlibrary.acu.edu.au/staffhome/siryan/academy/theatres/theatre%20of%20cruelty.htm)where sado-masochistic games are enacted repeatedly, mindlessly until a form of lobotomy wipes all means and the desired return to the most enslaving state of primitivism paradoxically liberates us from all inhibitions, the dictums of a subliminal religious order eating our souls with shame and fear. Disintegration, division, filtration, mortification, pulverisation, precipitation, purgation, reiteration, exaltation, fusion, resolution, projection, revivification, incorporation…the alchemical process occurs but the result escapes us. This man, risen like a lump of galvanized limbs, and with him, the spirit of rage and a desire to destroy all false idols, excites the entranced mass. Yet, an idol he himself has become for this brief moment, an event amongst many, in one of the most ferocious and alluring cities, London, the Babylonian hag in all her glory.
For we tilt in our age, on the edge of an iconoclasm, burning images of simulated beauty in our mind filled with idyllic promises the sacredness of which is soiled with the hollow sound of perfect symmetry. All ideas are merging and we need the blunt edge of erotic brutality to dismember the petty gods who led us, with the same full consent as Alan’s, up the garden path…although this garden is little more than a plastic lawn, and the up is down.
Or is this a variation on the theme of clandestine networking? What the urbanist Jane Jacobs(http://www.pps.org/reference/jjacobs-2/) called the phenomenon of “spillover” in the 1890s based on the concept emulated by economist Sir Alfred Marshall; how cities contained a resource of ideas ‘floating’ in the air; henceforth, as he believed, “if the crowd is right, people can pick up invaluable information through casual interactions in what is called a “dynamic externality”. (Humanities Magazine,November/December 2010, Why Paris by James Panero).
How contemporary is this?
The spectacle is over. We drift away from the crime scene; unsure of our feelings or certain we felt nothing; dressed to kill, killing time; we lick our lips, we sip our wine. The dead, the buried, the exhumed, all partake in this glimpse of a fruit; its name slips our mind, the juice dissolves on the tip of our tongue. We will pour into the streets again and share information.
Copyright © Pascal Ancel Bartholdi 2012