Visual art exhibitions and events with a platform for critical writing
Ideas? Technical issues?
» Feedback to a-n
AirSpace Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent
19 February - 26 March
Reviewed by: Rachel Marsden »
This exhibition brings together for the first time the works of two European artists of growing reputation and critical acclaim, David Blandy and Antii Laitinen. In a literal sense, they can be described as 'journey-men', in that their performances are derived from ritualistic and durational travel-embedded quests, within culture and the self. The actual meaning of the word 'journeyman' describes tradesmen or training workers and is linked with the idea of apprenticeships - a term particularly appropriate for these artists. They were commissioned to create new works for the exhibition, which are presented and visually referenced against previous works and clearly divided in the gallery.
Entering the space, Laitinen's seductive photo works greet you, Lake Deconstruction 1 (2011) and Lake Deconstruction 2 (2011), the photographic process used as a documentary tool, recording facets of the new film Lake Deconstruction (2011). Here, he engages in a personal challenge with the natural world, pushing his body to the limit as he ritualistically deconstructs a lake by cutting out generic-shaped blocks with a chainsaw, using them to build a door-less structure, posing the question of purpose. We only see a segment of the process, no beginning or end, as if we are party to a periodic glimpse, a special moment in time as the lake is changed from its natural state and place, to a new location and form. Laitinen views himself as a tool of production, where the activities presented could easily be characterised as quests or personal tests, in which he sets out to achieve difficult and very palpable tasks. It is as if the attempts were ways into new enlightenment, much like initiation rituals.
The film is presented in parallel with the documentary Diasec photographic prints. Face-mounted onto glass, the saturation and colour range of the images has been drawn out to such a degree that though it creates a high visual impact, showing the artist's confidence in using this medium, ultimately it detracts from the ritualistic actions presented in the film. Perhaps the video could have been positioned in a more contained space for complete visual engagement or the photographs renegotiated in an alternative environment.
Alongside Laitinen's new works is the performance Growler (2009), in which the artist removes a large block of ice from a lake, keeping it frozen as winter turns into spring. He then returns it to the lake of its origin, towing it across by rowboat: to-ing and fro-ing for two days until it slowly melts. This act of separation and reunification has a simplistic and almost pointless value visualised in a scene of overwhelming natural beauty, which compels you to question his playful yet physically challenging endeavours.
For the past ten years, David Blandy has questioned culture in the global domain through his voyages of self-discovery and creation of alter egos, and his new commissions here are no exception. Duel and Dualities - Battle of the Soul (2011) is an arcade game that brings together his previously created fictional characters, pseudo-representations of himself, that directly relate to existing characters within popular culture. Players enter a gladiatorial process, which Blandy refers to as 'hustling chess in the park ... all the power is in your fingers'. Training is a central role, considered as a process of ritual and endurance. He wants this game to enter the next level - 'subverting culture by getting inside it'.
Supporting the arcade machine are illustrative posters and cardboard cut outs of the Lone Pilgrim and other fictional characters - a series of re-appropriated Luke Skywalker figurines seen as 'a language of multiples', the documentary-style film Crossroads (2009), the Barefoot Lone Pilgrim compilation series (2007), and Child of the Atom (2010): a poetic, part factual, part fictional documentary and animated dramatisation of his personal relationship with the consequences of the Hiroshima atom bomb of 1945. Employing another form pop-culture phenomenon within the show, that of the comic, Blandy has also produced a related publication available to purchase from the gallery, The Child of the Atom - Comic (2011).
These detailed, tangible objects in Blandy's new works, make the pseudo-representations and contradictory cultures more plausible. At the preview I asked him what he thought of people playing with pseudo-versions of himself. He saw it "as another version of not existing ... a process of sacrificing identity to see what happens", questioning the nature of identity itself. Are we just different people in different situations? Or is there 'Blandyness' in everyone?'
In both Laitinen and Blandy's temporally-engaged practices, the artists become objects and processes, no longer their selves, and are contained within periods of time, creating longevity in enduring histories, and in some senses becoming immortal.
AirSpace Gallery is supported by Arts Council England and Stoke-on-Trent City Council. David Blandy is represented by Seventeen Gallery and Antti Laitinen is represented by Nettie Horn Gallery.
No one has commented on this article yet, why not be the first?
To post a comment you need to login