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Ceri Hand Gallery, Liverpool
18 September - 24 October
Reviewed by: Kai-Oi Jay Yung »
Down Liverpool's industrial Cotton Street, Bedwyr Williams gestures halfmockingly at the backwater location of Ceri Hand Gallery, whilst simultaneously harking back to Caernarfon, a small Welsh village, away from the noise, expense and the art spotlight of a big city. This homeward focus offers him a meatier reference point to chew fat on social idiosyncrasies concerning centre-periphery, nationhood, language: "(If in London) I'd probably just be making work about my oyster card... at home I have unfinished business".
"(It is) a sunny day, you're alone. You hear a drone in the sky, looking up you see a plane... thousands - they're not planes though..." This nightmarish scenario, described in the press release, seems snatched from a 'Choose Your Own Adventure' novel, and sets the scene for his new installation. I find myself in an airport hangar, gallery white enshrouded in 80s smoke. Structures compose a working airport; runway leading to starkly signed 'Bedwyr Williams Airport' terminal. The control tower points overhead to craft looming statically, vanishing faintly.
Anonymous looped muzak dominates the airwaves, entrapping us in this dystopian theme park. The space is a clunky rendition of a stream of consciousness stripped into fiction. This is Bedwyr's Wales - "weird, not like Goths but... without infrastructure... In Gaelic 'Wales' mean 'little Britain', it's difficult to leave it behind as a Welsh person". 'Nimrod' scales up Wales as a smaller version of Britain, bonsai country with valleys, coastline mimicking Greater Britain indicative perhaps of its perceived peripheral position/class. "His childhood passion - model railway building - was darkened by hardened alcohol swigging snooker players sharing the same venue; this inevitably seeding fear of scale/Godlike control.
'Nimrod' becomes a self-portrait of the artist as "a shabby provincial airport". Shabby since it reveals his status of self-deprecating bogan (a word Williams himself uses meaning 'chav'), a means to reflect upon small-big, here-there, home-international, self-worth of artist hedonist.
Tall, burly, Williams is scruffy despite wearing a trim grey suit. Marlboro smoked; he's more a disinterested lead singer than artist awaiting his own one-off live performance. Without costume or prop, he's naked with Welsh gruff and sardonic humour. "I don't know what I am going to do yet."
Paradoxically, uncanniness subsides. Far from ambiguous meander from one object or verse to disparate act or sculptural form, William's performance offers an explicit link between artist persona and production as ambiguous dream code. Williams revisits the role of his Sunday School Methodist preacher, unleashing an undulating tonal diatribe of fragmented yet abstractedly succinct dream anecdotes. Lasagnes made from jay cloths, wallpaper patterned with human veins and a factory compressing men into logs... William's occasional arm waving, feet shuffling and voice deepening on climatic warning; "I wake up".
The curtain closes with mounting audience laughter and applause. His performance recalls an eighteenth-century one-eyed Methodist preacher, Christmas Evans, crossed with a tipsy Homer Simpson. "It's value for money, entertainment". Phew, it's just a dream.
To make sense of the artwork and attempt explanation is as impalpable as dream communication. We may interpret the title 'Nimrod' to signify the tower of Babel, Israeli anti-missile programme or embassy siege, but perhaps it's straightforward after all; "I wanted a scary title ... you cannot call a missile 'hootchi-cootchi". Williams' installation disarmingly packs more stealth than his provincial humour pretends.
Kai-Oi Jay Yung’s immersive video narratives, dialogical platforms and multi-sensory interventions reconstruct our psycho-political histories through dark humour and play, catalysing engagement and collaboration. Her residencies, live performances and large-scale installations include 'Interval; A Narrative Psychosis', Cornerhouse, 'Military Craft', Guangzhou Live, 'Sock Exchange', FACT, 'Happy Stacking' with Grizedale Arts, 'Everbloomwith Eyebeam', Image Wars, Abrons Arts Centre, NYC and 'Tarot De Marseille', La Friche La Belle De Mai, Marseille. Biennials include 'Nightcomers', Istanbul and collaborative/curatorial projects include 'Everbloom..' with Eyebeam and 'Following Bauhaus' with Artur Zmijewski. She is a critical writer, lecturer and devises workshops such as Contemporary Chinese Art and Globalisation. Awards include Paul Hamlyn Foundation Micro-commission, San Francisco-Hong Kong and Brazil/Belize ACE research and she is selected as Courvoisier Future 500 member. Talks include 'Living Between The Lines', Tate Liverpool. Collections include AAA and Vivienne Westwood.
Ceri Hand Gallery »
6 Copperfield Street, London SE1 0EP
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