Sovay Berriman, ‘Cabin Tactics’, laser print on paper, 2008. [enlarge]

Sovay Berriman, ‘Cabin Tactics’, laser print on paper, 2008.

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REVIEW

Sovay Berriman: Cabin tactics

northcabin, Bristol
31 May – 27 June

Reviewed by: Colin Glen »

For the first in the series of four northcabin commissions, Sovay Berriman pastes over the windows of the former operating cabin of Redcliffe Bridge with a distinctive chart-like formation of white flyposters which bear only the minimal inscriptions of black and white delineations. Reminiscent of the geometrical abstraction of early Modernism, the ciphers manifest the artist’s interest in symbols as a covert esoteric language used, for instance, as a means of communication in evading oppressive authority, or in order to identify other members of a secret society. Yet in the context of the thoroughfare of the bridge, the interpretation of the marks – elliptical halo shapes and black points held at the corner of a right angle by a fine thread-like line – requires a more poetic reading of the work and the location.

The semi-circular ‘North Cabin’ contains defunct bridge operating equipment and is inaccessible to visitors, viewable only through the bridge-side windows, which Berriman has covered. On the opposite side of the bridge is the ‘South Cabin’, which continues to operate and, in being the semi-circular mirror image of the North Cabin, acts as the perfect foil to the project in its ‘site-responsive’ function intended by curator Katherine Daley-Yates. In fact the whole location takes on the graphic quality of Berriman’s illustrations. Imagined from above, the line of the road bisects the two halves of the cabin in the Suprematist manner of a line bisecting a circle. The piece is resonant of the collaborative nature of the northcabin project, the product of the three-way relationship developed over time between curator, artist and place. It is a quality that Daley-Yates draws from her connection with the Situations programme, which ran in Bristol from 2003-2005, and continues to act as an influential model for activating poetic encounters with place beyond the prescriptive trammels of a purist site-specificity. Indeed, the allusive associations so evocative of the ‘Thinking of the Outside’ commissions are here emphasised further by the delicacy of the Cabin Tactics concept. The neat paradox is that it is precisely the inaccessibility to the interior of the cabin, combined with its obfuscation by Berriman’s flyposters, which allows subjectivity to flourish by engaging the imagination of the viewer, standing in direct counterpoise to ‘accessibility’ agendas whose ‘pasted on’ artworks patronise both artist and audience

Writer detail:
I am an artist and am studying for a Phd at the University of Bristol in the photographic documentation of art

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