Stuff and nonsense

Michael Landy, Gameboy drawing, 1998

Michael Landy, Gameboy drawing from Breakdown

I’ve written about Michael Landy’s Break Down here before, but at the time I focused firmly on the event and the photographic documentation. Breakdown, an Artangel commission that saw Landy destroy all his possessions with the help of a team of overall-clad operatives and a production line style ‘disposal facilty’ set up in the former C&A store on Oxford Street, came back to mind for a few reasons. Mainly, I’ve been trying to reduce the clutter levels in my house and while there’s a long way to go I’ve become pretty familiar with the local charity shops and reacquainted myself with stuff that’s long been lurking in what can only reasonably be described as the junk room. While I’m probably worse than most people at getting round to dumping the clutter, I think many of us do attach memories to things in a way that can make it hard to acknowledge our lack of practical need for objects that may hold sentimental value, however slight.

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In the spotlight

Lygia Pape, Tteia 1, B (prata-lunar), 2000/12 at Frieze Masters

Lygia Pape, Ttéia 1, B (prata-lunar), 2000/12

I’ve written about Lygia Pape’s web installations here before, I know, but having seen her exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery last spring seeing Ttéia 1 again – albeit a slightly different, silvery, version – in the Galeria Graça Brandão space of Spotlight at Frieze Masters was a welcome chance to interact with the work in a rather different way.

Here too, the light catches the thread and makes it sparkle and standing in front of what seem to have become criss-crossing beams of light carries the same sense of enchantment. But whereas in the Serpentine Gallery the work was effectively put on a pedestal (albeit in the form of a slightly raised floor), as something to wonder at rather than interact with, here it simply criss-crosses a corner of an art fair stall.

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Obvious entrapment

Chiharu Shiota, After the Dream, 2009

The idea of entrapment in a web is one it’s hard to explore without establishing more than a passing relationship with cliché. Though Alice Anderson’s anarchic loop of tangled dolls’ hair won me round – mainly by its refusal to stay contained within the gallery – sadly Chiharu Shiota’s After the Dream just doesn’t quite do it for me. Though I like the way Shiota uses thread to confuse my understanding of the space, I’m less taken with the entrapment of the white dresses within the web of thread. There is, arguably, the suggestion of spectral figures but really the reference of wedding dresses trapped within a web that might surprise even Miss Havisham seems that bit too obvious.

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A tangled web

Alice Anderson, Time Reversal, 2010

Galleries don’t usually have fringes. It’s not a hard and fast rule, of course, but in practice they seldom have much hair at all and if they do it’s usually just on the inside. During Alice Anderson’s exhibition Time Reversal in 2010, Riflemaker in Soho (the London one, that h isn’t lowercase by accident) was something of an exception in that respect. But then exception seems to be what Riflemaker does best (if only because the building is distinctly more rickety than the average West End gallery space).

The centrepiece of Anderson’s exhibition was an installation made from hair – okay, doll’s hair; real hair really doesn’t grow quite this long – that one saw first from the street when approaching the gallery. The hair seemed to go on forever. It hangs down from an upstairs window, forming a fringe that partially covers the door; looping back up it nips back in to the gallery above the door. And that’s just what could be seen from outside…

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Dust to dust

Takahiro Iwasaki, Out of Disorder, 2011; Cornerhouse Manchester (image: WeAreTape)

Takahiro Iwasaki, Out of Disorder (hair), 2011

It was a random conversation about the Cornerhouse in Manchester that reminded me about Takahiro Iwasaki’s work, which I saw there last year in the exhibition Constellations, and as some of it involves the use of hair this seems like as good a time to write about it as any what with hair being my preoccupation of the week. It was noticing that Constellations included the work of Katie Paterson and Felix Gonzalez-Torres that put it firmly on my list of things I needed to see during a very brief trip to Manchester last summer and though they didn’t disappoint, it was Iwasaki’s work that charmed me the most when I got there. Out of Disorder is a tiny, fragile world of constructions made of and emerging from the stuff of our daily lives. In some cases the stuff in question is dust and hair found in the space which become mountains and pylons.

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A bumpy ride

Richard Wilson, Hang On A Minute Lads, I’ve Got A Great Idea…, 2012

As a starting point for sculpture, the last line of The Italian Job might not seem like an obvious, sensible or even remotely workable choice but then Richard Wilson isn’t an artist to let a little thing like impracticality get in the way of a good idea. So, how better to join in the flag-waving of this summer than by balancing a replica of a red, white and blue coach over the edge of the roof of an iconic seaside building? Having written about this summer’s bus-based art a while ago for MostlyFilm, I hadn’t intended to post about this here but a spate of transport related posts have brought it back to mind and you can never have too much sunny, smile-inducing art. Well, you probably can, but let’s plough on regardless.

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Drawing in space

Damián Ortega, Miracolo Italiano, 2005

The VW Beetle is not the only vehicle Damián Ortega has used as art materials. In Miracolo Italiano Ortega presented three Vespa scooters in various states of wholeness. The scooter leading the parade is whole but the ones behind it are exploding out into the space, with the second one showing early signs of breaking up and the third one as fragmented as the Beetle in Cosmic Stuff. Like the Beetle, the Vespa is a twentieth century icon and Miracolo Italiano was made for an exhibition in it’s home city of Turin

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Time travelling

Mark Wallinger, Time and Relative Dimensions in Space, 2001

It was the title of George Shaw’s painting of a phone box – The Time Machine – that brought Mark Wallinger’s Time and Relative Dimensions in Space to mind. The work is a replica of a police box with a mirrored surface. Police boxes really don’t exist any more so we only really recognise them in the form of Dr Who’s TARDIS. The nature of the tardis is that is appears from nowhere and can disappear in an equally incomprehensible manner.  Whereas the tardis is either there or not there, Wallinger’s box seems to be simultaneously there and not there.

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Art about art – Mel Brimfield: Between genius and desire at Ceri Hand Gallery

Mel Brimfield, Vincent (Portrait with Fur Hat and Bandaged Ear), 2012

Mel Brimfield makes art about art in a very different way to others that I’ve written about here before (the reworkings of Hogarth’s A Rake’s Progress by David Hockney and Yinka Shonibare or Gregory Crewdson’s remained Edward Hopper picture, for instance). As with Shonibare’s Diary of a Victorian Dandy, Brimfield’s work is performative but there’s a humour in the work that feels more connected to Nina Katchadourian’s Self-portrait as Sir Ernest Shackleton though in Brimfield’s work the performances are collaborations between artist and performer. The resulting works – photographs, videos and sculpture – reference not only the artists Brimfield is looking at but also our ideas about art and the way the artists have been represented in films. Brimfield’s exhibition Between Genius and Desire at Ceri Hand Gallery Project Space – the gallery’s first show in London – gave me a lot to both think and smile about.

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Where activism meets art

Ai Weiwei, Remembering, 2009

It’s possible for text to become meaningless shapes when we’re too close to it, especially if it’s written in an unfamiliar script. At first glance, maybe even to those who read Mandarin, the colourful wall of the Haus der Kunst Museum in Munich which faced visitors to Ai Weiwei’s 2009 exhibition So Sorry, might have seemed more like a cheerful pattern rather than the poignant words of a grieving mother. The colour palette of red, yellow, green and blue is more redolent of children’s books than works of art and certainly doesn’t immediately suggest a memorial. Look closer and it’s clear that the building blocks of the banner are brightly coloured backpacks, the sort that children often use as school bags. But this is a work that needs an explanation.

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