- Transmission Gallery
What happened to Shelly Nadashi? Is she locked in the basement of the gallery, bashing her well-practiced head against the ceiling in order for her audience to hear rather than see her?
Born in Haifa, 1981, Nadashi studied at The School for Visual Theatre, Jerusalem and graduated from the MFA programme at Glasgow School of Art in 2009. Before leaving for her residency at WIELS, Brussels at the end of 2010 Nadashi made a name for herself in Scotland using the performative act.
Nadashi’s installation ‘Text Me Faster Dance Company’ at Transmission Gallery, Glasgow mediates the space using puppets and papier-mâché sculptures displayed on shelves, dimly lit by lamps wired to sockets in the floor. The backdrop of the exhibition is a large paper frame alluding to the dynamics of puppetry. These objects are infused with character; characters that jolt and gesture their way through the sequence of three films projected in the corner of the gallery backed with circular paper. Each film in turn then displays three flutists who confer over an improvised sound track, dismembering the objects and confirming their stillness in the middle of the room.
A hole in the wall of the gallery repeats the circumference of each film framing and extending an invitation to take part in what Nadashi decides is her ‘domesticity’. From outside you look in at the puppets and the bulbous lampshades that distil the belonging of a theatre’s dusty storeroom. Inside looking out – and this was practiced as visitors at the preview stood smoking and chatting under the street light – the audience is caught in its animated state extending this notion of characterisation.
The installation leaves room for misinterpretation: perhaps this is deliberate, as reason seems unredeemable facing Nadashi’s absurdity. Then the basement – an inaccessible area of the artist’s governance over the gallery – makes a hollowed resonant bang to the regulation of Nadashi’s personal metronome. In place of reason there is an impeding sense of control. Just as the artist contorts the puppets on her hands she also ties strings upon the viewer limiting their steps as they dance upon her stage. We mediate the display unaware that the ‘performance’ reaches completion through our presence. And when the thrashing from beneath springs into action, so we walk in time across the gallery floor engendered by the artist’s instructed beat.
Reason is an important element when approaching Nadashi’s work. The artist being either illusive or shy in person transforms herself during the live act: something that also happens when these acts are committed to film. This transformation harmonises personal (and practiced) idiosyncrasies with self-perception in a wider social context. The puppets and other props on display do not stand alone outside their circulated fame spliced on to film. To this then, the work as a whole does not stand alone without prior experience of Nadashi’s ongoing preoccupation with theatricality.
The installation is a blandishment for the audience to arrange themselves accordingly for understanding the ‘artwork’ and their relationship to it. But that understanding proves hard to unveil, it smacks itself instead against the underside of the floor beneath their feet.
(Review first published April 2011 on ‘this is tomorrow’)