Alma Enterprises

Alma Enterprises is one of the many gallery spaces in abandoned industrial units on East London’s Vyner St. It takes its name from the previous occupier, and has, since opening in October 2004, been showcasing some startling experimental visual art, video and performance art. The opening of their current show sees emerging artist talent expressing themes that bubble in the subconscious, reacting to currents not yet articulated in mainstream culture, implying the unsettling turbulence beneath the surface of the contemporary world. Charlie Tweed’s absurdist video piece, The Man From Below, goes literally underground to recreate a tragi-comic reaction to the fear of climate change, enacted in the industrial redevelopment of the wastelands to the East of London’s Docklands. Two pieces by Beltran Obregon use video in innovative ways to show the Earth from the air, sailing above it in ways that inevitably take the viewer in unanticipated directions. Brutally shocking images in a traditional cartoon design style are among works by Nicky Magliulo. Collaborators, P1orn, reproduce faces from a common bad taste souvenir postcard, that repeat while erupting into thick black smoke. An intricate coloured collage produced by collaboration between New York artists Matt Bua and Jesse Bercowetz draws connections from the canal ways of New York and London, spreading out into a disconcerting network of provocative conspiracy theories. On a softer note, Gayle Chong Kwan’s installation produces a profound and insightful experience that also touches on the canal alongside the gallery. A tiny dinner table set with small samples of food can be enjoyed whilst blindfolded, accompanied by a headphone soundtrack. Meanwhile, menus on the table recount the experiences of local shop owners being displaced by the drive to regenerate the neighbourhood around the gallery. On the opening night of the exhibition, themes of dislocation and even muted terror, were further highlighted by a piece by Chris Peck of The Booklyn Adult Recorder Choir. Working with 6 local performers, dubbed the Alma Enterprises Adult Community Choir, a vocal sound performance took place around the guests consisting of powerful sung harmony descending into unsettling dischords and clacking alarm sounds. (This was to me reminiscent of Gyorgy Ligeti’s disharmonic choirs, famously used in Kubrick’s 2001, or even of the deranged vocal workouts of the early Mothers of Invention). The audience was caught in a spell by the experience, surrounded by singers in each corner of the small gallery space. Half-bewitched, whilst uncertainty and disquiet churn beneath, this is a timely and engaging showcase of innovative artists, whose avant-garde imagination and combination of old techniques with new, identifies fresh paths for a wry and challenging contemporary art.

– Anthony Alexander