Rebecca Geldard’s Top 10 Shows In London: March 2011

Susan Hiller

Susan Hiller
1 February – 15 May 2011
Tate Britain
London SW1P

Former anthropologist Susan Hiller has spent her life to date excavating cultural perceptions, using as many of the object-, theory- and time-based tools at her disposal. One of the most interesting elements of this engaging survey is the way the American artist positions herself both within and outside of the pleasures and predicaments of being a woman and an artist. In the early work ‘Ten Months 1977-79’, for example, Hiller presents photographs of her growing baby bump like the rising pile of earth from a hole she is digging herself into, her annotations at once emotive and distant as if she is the unwitting subject of an experiment. The Hollywood women of 1999 film ‘Psi Girls’, so easily dismissed for contributing to the promotion of not-always-helpful social stereotypes, are gently partially cut out of their film contexts; just enough so that we might see the empty space behind the image, the psychic-suspectness on which their projected beauty is based.

John Stezaker

John Stezaker
29 January – 18 March 2011
Whitechapel Gallery
London E1

It is testament to the irrational power of John Stezaker’s collages that even amongst this expansive and perfectly-pitched career survey one is left pondering his exact involvement in the cutting and shutting of found images — for the evidence is plain to see. Yes, a waterfall may have been placed fortuitously over a Hollywood face, a parallelogram sliced out of a mono family film scene, but the effects of Stezaker’s simple alterations defy the mercurial logic of each newly created image. Very few artists make such succinct comment on the lure and lies of the photographic memory, or exhibitions leave you with the sense that nothing could have been changed. From the ant-sized antics of Stezakers film extras reframed for anonymous glory to the vibrant topsy-turvy melding of actor and context in the ‘Third Person’ series, there are nods here and there to surreal practitioners past but literally nothing spare.

Christian Marclay

British Art Show 7
16 February – 17 April 2011
Hayward Gallery
London SE1

For the regular London-gallery or art-fair goer this survey of current British art is not surprising but a welcome reminder nonetheless of some of the best UK-based artists practising today. ‘In the Days of the Comet’, is an apt subtitle for this selection of works that might have recently been beamed down from somewhere else entirely. The viewer is pulled in multiple ‘real’ and fantasy fuelled directions from the Duncan Campell’s expertly spliced film portrait of 1970s Northern Irish political activist Bernadette Devlin to Charles Avery’s bizarre multimedia fictionalisation of island life. If Christian Marclay’s ‘Clock’, a film work that tick-tocks one through real time using fragments of filmic time, offers a portal between past and present, so Brian Griffiths’s outsized and wholly inactive tarpaulin bear costume, pancake-flat to the floor, feels entirely of the moment: an achingly poetic leitmotif for Budget Britain. Don’t miss Karin Ruggaber’s formally beautiful, associatively bonkers wall relief. The exhibition will travel on to Glasgow and Plymouth.

Cory Arcangel

Cory Arcangel
10 February – 22 May 2011
Barbican Curve
London, EC2

Brooklyn-based artist Cory Arcangel moves with ease between technological platforms, at the mercy of his irrepressible curiosity, tinkering with computer code and manipulating digital material with profound results. Arcangel has recreated composer Arnold Schoenberg’s 1909 ‘Three Piano Pieces’ from YouTube footage of a cat playing the piano and made a Structuralist-style film from damaged film stock. Here at the Curve he charts the technological evolution of the computer bowling game (1970s-2000s). Each of the giant screens plays out a different incarnation, in chronological order, all sequences hacked to arrive at a no-score. The time-travelling effects of sound and graphics will doubtless speak to gamers, hackers and contemporary art audiences alike. Beneath the retro packaging of this spectacle lies a meditation on the ingeniousness and futility of human pursuits.

Varda Caivano

Varda Caivano
1 February – 12 March 2011
Victoria Miro
London N1

Varda Caivano’s sumptuous, unsettling new series of paintings is titled ‘Voice’. The London-based painter doesn’t so much give tangible form to abstract sounds here as reveal fragments of the earthly experiences that might contain them. In a pictorial sense this voice wavers in tonal potency from faint whisper to querulous call, as if in attempt to visually locate the moment at which consciousness invades a dream, perhaps, or fuzzy fragments of audio – as reverberated through space and matter. Caivano’s unmissable, colour-rich imagery situates the viewer between a literary, philosophical sense of destability and more easily explicable everyday phenomena: tricks of the mind and the light.

Shirin Neshat

I Know Something About Love
9 March – 22 May 2011
Parasol Unit
London N1

This claim from a 1960s song lyric links the culturally-specific pespectives on the subject by four stellar international practitioners. In the two-channel video work ‘Fervour’ Shirin Neshat reflects on love in a time of cultural revolution, in contemporary Iran. The odd physical spectacle of the last slow dance of the night is the focus of Cypriot artist Christodoulos Panayiotou’s 24-hour performance video of strangers forming a human chain. Yang Fudong uses the romantic pop song as a means of framing the speed of change in China in his three-channel video work ‘Flutter, Flutter… Jasmine, Jasmine’. British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare, meanwhile, draws from the Rococco period in 18th century France for his indoor garden installation of culturally-hybrid headless lovers.

Nathaniel Mellors

Nathaniel Mellors: Ourhouse
9 March – 15 May 2011
London SW1

Episodes of ‘Ourhouse’, Nathaniel Mellor’s characteristically peculiar film, loosely based on an Italian drama about a stranger’s infiltration of a bourgeois family, are currently making their way around Britain as part of the Briitish Art Show 7. ICA will screen this ongoing film work in its full and present form as part of a solo exhibition by Mellors – his first in a public institution – which also includes animatronic work ‘Hippy Dialectics (Ourhouse)’. While the film, with its nods to Englishness as brand, TV serialisation and the artist’s ongoing fascination with absurdism and the grotesque (the central character eats and excretes books), is draw enough, the events programme includes talks on art and animism and screenings of ‘The Little Richard Story’ and Susan Sontag’s ‘Duet for Cannibals’.

Rupert Ackroyd/Alison Turnbull

Rupert Ackroyd/Alison Turnbull
31 March – 7 May 2011
The Russian Club
London N1

This is the first of the Russian Club’s artist pair-ups to involve a direct collaboration. Sculptor Rupert Ackroyd’s objects and installations reference everyday environments, specifically generic commercial interiors and the (mis)appropriation of cultural motifs associated with them – this might be Wetherspoon’s shiny re-invention of the ye olde pub, or the ‘alternative’ consumer lifestyle sold through IKEAs modernist reinvention of domestic apparatus. The shape of Alison Turnbull’s spare abstract paintings is often influenced by municipal and bespoke architectural spaces – from cancer hospitals to Thomas Jefferson’s laboratory. The London-based Colombian artist looks to 1960s style for this commmision — a painting that will be applied directly to a large timber-frame wall, constructed by Ackroyd with Tudor building techniques (and all their contemporary connotations) in mind.

Pino Pascali

Pino Pascali
4 March – 1 May 2011
Camden Arts Centre
London, NW3

Pino Pascali is an important post-war figure little known in Britain, his extremely brief career cut short by a motorbike accident in 1968 aged just 32. This, the first London exhibition dedicated to his work, focuses on the two years preceding his death — the period that best defines his contribution to Arte Povera, the Italian art movement concerned with the radical potential of everyday materials. Many of the works shown here featured in Pascali’s presentation at the Venice Biennale in 1968, which the artist withdrew in response to violent student protests against the selection process for the exhibition. Such tragedy and conflict sits oddly with the experimental, pop sensibility of these works, for this slice of Pascali’s surreal universe features a hairy mushroom and a giant blue-fur covered spider.

Tim Head

Tim Head
10 March – 10 April 2011
Wilkinson (lower gallery)
London E2

Anyone who saw the incisive Michael Bracewell-curated ‘Room Divider’ at Wilkinson last summer will already have some idea of how well Tim Head’s films suit the raw concrete belly of the ground floor space. Head, whose interests lie in the ubiquitous, but often overlooked, visuality of technology and the human/machine relationship, returns with new works on paper that question the slippery nature of materiality in the digital age. Made by hand, in ink, these works recall the jumping particles of the screen and age-old drawing and printing techniques. The investment of their manufacture suggests both a sense reverence to such mundane wizadry and its potential and deeply human resistance to the idea of technology, that which merely records the real, as advancement.

About the author

Rebecca Geldard is a freelance writer and critic living in London.


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