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LA Sante, Brighton
1 October - 31 December 2009
Reviewed by: Nep Hall »
This is undoubtedly a functional image which indicates something about the purpose of the building it is positioned upon (located at latitude, longitude 50.825715,-0.14146 [for Google Maps and similar systems]). One picture is split into four tall rectangles, maybe 1.5m wide by 3m in height each. Men (I counted about twelve of them), in tight bright outfits and wearing closely fitting head gear made from some rubber-like substance including face masks of sorts, are frozen in motion. They have been caught in a furious charge from right to left across the picture, most are leaning forward, their arms revolving about shoulders; hands either clenched to some degree or splayed out. On the outfits there appear numbers. The sky behind is of a clear blue, the ground beneath the men’s feet is blue. In the background there sit what may be accommodation blocks. The characters are all white men of a similar physique. As stated above they are depicted in a frantic rush though stress is not apparent or meant to be conveyed here. The figures are moving forward in a rough line which runs off into the distance so that on the photograph - this image is a photograph - many lines coincide at a vanishing point to the bottom left of the screen. The lines form a subliminal arrow thus, pointing in that direction.
As one simply describes the contents of the rectangle(s) in this manner the meaning reveals itself, becomes utterly obvious. Study Barthes’ Mythologies or other texts on Semiotics to inform yourself as to how such readings are conducted. The speeding figures are a metaphor for ESCAPE, and escape FROM a particular variety of capture namely: CAPTURE BY CAMERA. Put bluntly, these men do not want ‘to be in the picture’. They are trying to get off it. The situation is urgent, desperate. We can safely assume that they do not wish to be ‘seen’ because they are embarrassed about their uninteresting, generic body shapes and looks and also undoubtedly they are ashamed of the prison outfits which they have been forced to wear. We can divulge, indeed, that the building which our picture decorates can only be (is) a jail.
Behind these walls inmates are humiliated, brainwashed, drugged. In a typically modern combination of brutality and financial efficiency, prisoners are ground down mentally to the extent that further torture is self-inflicted. During day release the inmates work long hours only to return here and have the remaining period filled with more pointless activity. This activity, termed Exercise, takes its toll until eventually all look identical. The resulting physical uniformity means in the long term that no uniform is necessary. We are almost at that point, explaining why the characters are so inadequately clad. So the ultimate aim is full nudity, bringing with it the associated exposure of the horrific cloning which has taken place and the further terrible psychological impact this will have on the inmates concerned. Another message emanating from the giant poster is that all attempts to escape this hell must fail. Our subjects come tantalisingly close to breaking free but remain there, fixed, like the characters on Keats’ Grecian Urn.
Alternatively this picture amounts to yet another instance of the most menacing and increasingly ubiquitous contemporary Non-Socialist Realism.
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