Visual art exhibitions and events with a platform for critical writing
Site Gallery, Sheffield 16 February 6 April
Reviewed by: Justine Brooks »
Making the claim that art is little more than a conjuring trick, 'Con Art' presents its audience with a barrage of successive art-tricks in which they are made willing participants to the illusions placed before them.
Most dramatically, Site Gallery has commissioned Berlin transformation artist Christian Jancowski to turn visitors into sheep in a real-time magic trick. In suggesting that art is deception and in making the audience conspire in the illusion, the exhibition ultimately poses the question 'Do you believe?'
The work of conceptual artist Sarah Charlesworth reveals the potential of photography to fool the eye we believe in the pieces as photographs, but don't necessarily believe in them as images.
New technology is used to deceive us in Kyprianou and Hollington's new commission Values for a New Age. On a monitor we see the image of a wineglass that seems to be constantly moving, yet the same glass seen through a spy hole is stationary.
Jonathan Allen's commission Device and Illusion presents the image of an empty easel surrounded by painting paraphernalia. The work refers to David Devant's nineteenth century stage illusion The Artist's Dream, in which the painter dreams his lover steps out of the canvas. Two neon works by Allen are also included in the exhibition in the gallery window and in Sheffield's Magick Shop.
Other new commissions include work by Simon Patterson who has used an airline crew to re-enact tricks performed by Houdini instead of carrying out a safety demonstration.
The magic show as confidence trick is brilliantly observed in Aura Satz's edgy work The Conjurer's Assistant involving the deconstruction of the traditional roles of magician and assistant. A video of the conjurer sawing his assistant in half is cut to show the magician being 'edited' as the clip is repeated ad-nauseam against a canned soundtrack.
In Mark Wallinger's palindromic work regard a mere mad rager a sequence involving Tommy Cooper trying on hats is played backwards and reflected into a mirror. In Anna and Bernhard Blume's work Transcendental Constructivism, constructed 'art' objects hurl themselves at the people in the photographs making the suggestion that art is taking over.
Ingeborg LÜscher's twenty-year-long photographic project shows artists and their audiences conveying what they consider to be magic, while Allessandra Spranzi's black and white photographs probably capture most effectively the essence of the exhibition. Her 'still life' images in which cups, glasses, bowls, funnels and even a plastic horse levitate, appear believable in their banal surroundings and draw the audience into the illusion, leading us to the conclusion that even if art is nothing but a pack of cards, the deception is most welcome.
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