Melanie Coughlan, ‘It's a secret’, cast resin, 2006. [enlarge]

Melanie Coughlan, ‘It's a secret’, cast resin, 2006.

Jane McInally, ‘Still from Commercial Road’, video, 2006. Courtesy: the Artist. [enlarge]

Jane McInally, ‘Still from Commercial Road’, video, 2006.
Courtesy: the Artist.


Cover to Cover

Bournemouth Library, Bournemouth
28 October – 16 December

Reviewed by: Stephen Riley »

The clichéd image of Bournemouth as a homely seaside town filled with bungalows and pensioners is becoming increasingly inappropriate. Already, it has a reputation as a regional clubbing capital; trendy apartments perforate the skyline; and a university and a proliferation of language schools create ethnic diversity and the constant regeneration of its youth population. Change in the visual arts is, however, a slower process.

In spite of the size of Bournemouth (smaller places call themselves cities) and its liveliness, there is scarcely any discernable contemporary visual art scene. There have been sterling efforts to rectify this, such as the ‘Lower Gardens Project’, an anarchic annual outdoor event, started in 2003 by sculptor and former yBa Paul Finnegan and the local council’s Arts Development Officer Gill Horitz, which encourages arts undergraduates to make daring site-specific works.

‘Cover to Cover’ is the latest of Horitz’s creations. Like the ‘Lower Gardens Project’, it is to some extent a reaction to the absence of a contemporary art gallery in the town, but being in the library it is necessarily more reserved than the outdoor show. Indeed, making work which “relates to the function of the library” was a key feature of the artist’s brief.

Melanie Coughlan has cast the space between lips and cupped hands in translucent resin to, as she puts it, “cast a whisper”, and hung the results in sequences like the components of a mobile or chandelier. Jane McInally has videoed the night-time street activities outside the library and displayed them on daytime indoor monitors. Richard Jeffery has produced long-exposure photographs of people moving between the library’s shelves. The artists have responded to the long-established protocols of library behaviour. Like the punters poring over the periodicals, the work refuses to draw unnecessary attention to itself. Everything could be part of the normal process of information transfer. At a glance, the castings and photos could be publicity material, advertising some forthcoming library event or reminding us to watch our bags, and the videos could be routine surveillance.

The one body of work that would not fall into this category is Shelley Heath’s. Her performances are obtrusive and noisy. She supplements readings from favourite books with theatrical re-enactments of parts of the narrative. Thus, in her extract from Lord of the Flies, she comes running up the stairs, shirt torn off and screaming like a banshee, or, more likely, like Piggy tearing from the undergrowth with some invisible terror at his heels.

Whether the successful assimilation of most of this work into the library environment is a strength or a weakness is a matter for individual viewers. The case is nevertheless made both for further interventions into non-art spaces in Bournemouth and for a dedicated contemporary arts venue.

Writer detail:
Dr Stephen Riley is an artist, writer and lecturer. Interests: the physical and cultural structures through which visual representations are made and made visible; the cultural uses and implications of spaces, images and media. Media: painting, photography, text. He has exhibited since 1990 including UK, China and Germany.

Venue detail:
Bournemouth Library »
22 The Triangle, BOURNEMOUTH BH2 5RQ

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