Visual art exhibitions and events with a platform for critical writing
Ideas? Technical issues?
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12 November 2001 - 12 February 2012
Reviewed by: Maru Rojas Cuahonte »
Where did we ever get the strange idea that nature — as opposed to culture — is ahistorical and timeless? We are far too impressed by our own cleverness and self-consciousness. . . . We need to stop telling ourselves the same old anthropocentric bedtime stories.
—Steven Shaviro, Doom Patrols 1997
Am I making up what really happened? is Flygari Johansen’s first exhibition in the UK as well as the title of a commissioned piece for the Arch Gallery at Beaconsfield. The upper gallery presents an anthology of work created between 2005 and the present.
The works presented on the upper gallery are a juxtaposition of objects that can be read like an internal dialogue, between the local and the global, the use of organic materials like sand, sticks and stones and the use of complex digital technologies, the traditional and ancient set against contemporary cultural identities.
All the works, apart from The Fence, rely heavily on the technical expertise of Johny Bradley with whom the artist has collaborated since 2001.
Snowman is a time-lapse video determined by the oil prices that are delivered in real time via the Internet. The snowman of the title reacts continuously to the market prices of crude oil from the North Sea, melting down when the oil prices go down, and being rebuilt when the price goes up. Upon a drastic decrease the snowman melts to the ground only to start again, but now as a negative image. The work is completed with an oil drum filled to the brim with motor oil, whose mirror-like quality suspiciously reminds me of Richard Wilson’s 20:50. Although technically complex, the work is a tad literal and appears almost as an opportunistic criticism of contemporary environmental issues.
Call of the Wild is a field recording controlled by live feed from the London Stock Exchange, together with the remnants of a bonfire: boulders, wood and sand. I do wonder if perhaps some of these works rely too heavily on the technical aspects and the content of the work is diluted and too obvious to propose a serious reflection.
Through the use of basic biology principles, We Are Growing Up As Patriots and Malevich Circle, points to the multifaceted work of most artists. This is Johansen’s only attempt at something close to painting. The words written with the artist’s saliva emerge on the picture over the course of the exhibition as the bacterial culture develops. The modernist reference of suprematism is an interesting opposition to the post-modern idea of the artist as an interdisciplinary subject, comfortable working in robotics, biology an art arenas.
Down in the Arch Gallery, an appropriately named long tunnel that runs directly under the railway tracks to and from Waterloo, is the commissioned work Am I Making Up What Really Happened?. As a whole the work is less obviously political, but no less effective. A puddle of Thames water pushes a large plastic sheet down so that it appears to be precariously suspended from the four corners of the gallery. Motion sensors detect the movement in the gallery and as we approach the suspended pool we see a reflection of a swimming trout on the floor. As the visitor advances, the trout recedes. If the visitor is still, so is the fish.
Past the suspended pool is a mount of pungent limestone, laced with Ammonium Sulphate to appear like a mountain of shinning sugar crystals. It’s interesting to note that “Hatcher fertilisers” sponsor the exhibition. If at first I thought the link between the Ammonium Sulphate and the making of explosives was too feeble, this made me think it wasn’t a coincidence. Ammonium Sulphate is banned in Pakistan and Afghanistan together with Ammonium nitrate since 2009 after it was linked to makeshift explosives. It is also well documented that Anders Brevik set up a farm business in order to be able to order large quantities of fertiliser. The mount of limestone glitters away beautifully under the dark tunnels.
There is at the end a table with a glass of milk, which on first inspection seems perfectly still. However, the sonic vibrations of passing trains are converted into earthquake like vibrations that rattle the specially constructed table-top. The glass moves dangerously close to the edge, but apparently never falls.
There is a certain cinematic structure in place that adds temporality to his work. The viewer waits in suspense for the fish to move, for the glass to fall. Her presence is required for the work to exist. As Derrida might have described it – he is “future-producing”, predicting the viewer’s return before they can even think about it themselves. He may be using new and complex forms, for the same old themes pervade throughout his work: the political with references to the local, issues of ethnicity and territory.
I am a facilitator - of experiences, ideas, thoughts, skills - an artist and writer (or art writer in the broadest sense). I am completing an MFA Art Writing at Goldsmiths*. Please visit my portfolio for more info about me (CV, works, facilitation projects, etc) www.marurojas.wordpress.com. * I am being sponsored by JUMEX Foundation and FONCA (Conaculta, Mexico) to complete this course.
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