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Millais Gallery, Southampton
4 November 17 December
Reviewed by: Rosemary Shirley »
In Ventilation Melody presented her ongoing research into popular strategies for exercising anger as you might imagine screaming and shouting featured quite prominently. Throughout the pieces on show there was an aesthetic of cabaret and grotesquery, with a little Benny Hill thrown in. This was most evident in the performance that took place on the opening night where Melody appeared as the sequinned hostess of a game show that incorporated many Saturday teatime stalwarts. The audience were taken through popular elements of ventilation such as physical violence (bashing each other with foam sticks, last seen on Gladiators) and listening to sad songs (played in a Name that Tune style). Finally, they were invited to guess the top ten forms of ventilation, the results of which appeared on a homemade Family Fortunes scoreboard. The game show as performance seemed an appropriate way to present the research, referencing the anger, frustration and boredom often provoked by the genre.
Melody also borrowed formats from popular culture in Vent Head, a pseudo-documentary, profiling a piece of wearable technology created by the artist to enable the user to vent their anger and re-use the energy expended. Endorsements by QVC-style presenters, man on the street interviews and Open University-type scientists pressed our consumer buttons but never satisfied them.
The earliest work in the show, a video piece entitled Pissed off Pumpkin (2001), showed the artist dressed as a pumpkin in an elaborate theme park character costume with an internal pump. As the character began to inflate it started to shout. Seemingly more bored than angry the pumpkin continually addressed the camera telling it and us to fuck off. The incessant repetition turned the words into a meaningless sing song, no longer a process of ventilation but a cause of frustration in itself. As with all the pieces on show the combination of irony and dark humour gave all the expressions of anger a cartoon quality; the audience was never made to share these feelings of anger; we were not moved. Instead we could identify with the everyday trivialities resulting in the momentary outburst that, for all its powers of release, usually leaves us back where we started.
Rosemary Shirley is Interface editor, she writes about art for magazines, websites and galleries, she teaches at Goldsmiths, Birkbeck and University of Sussex.
Millais Gallery »
Southampton Solent University, East Park Terrace, Southampton SO14 0YN
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