British Art Show 8 at Southampton

For me the most interesting work shown was all contained within Southampton Art Gallery. The first work that subdued me was Rachel Maclean’s ‘Feed Me’. Since seeing her video work ‘Germs’ screened at the Whitechapel gallery last year I have often found myself reflecting Maclean’s visual aesthetic in my drawings. As grotesque as ever this film explores the themes of commodification, social structures and childhood in a recognisable dystopia. This work in particular felt very close to the 2006 film ‘Idiocracy’ both stylistically and contextually. Idiocracy maintains a level of irony throughout due to the Hollywood-esque naivety of it all, whereas ‘Feed Me’ carries an honest edge of concern throughout, avoiding all comic outlets despite the exaggerated an intolerable characters it features. These imaginings of dystopia are crucial for my work as my own beliefs are rooted in the uncompromising change that is slowly creeping upon all civilisation, particularly the populations of first world countries.


Still from Rachel Maclean’s ‘Feed Me’
Installation view of Rachel Maclean’s ‘Feed Me’ 


Still from ‘Idiocracy’ (2006)

Benedict Drew’s video installation work ‘Sequencer’ was unsettling and weird, but there were many elements of it that stopped my comprehension of it. The installation seemed more focussed on the weird materials, tin foil, conch shells, mud, than on the footage shown. Although I enjoyed the visual pleasures of this work I never felt completely immersed in the ‘landscape’ I was told to experience.

Installation view of Benedict Drew’s ‘Sequencer’

In the adjoining room I came across Andrea Büttner’s ‘Images in Kant’s Critique of the Power of Judgement’. Having read some of Büttner’s written work I somehow felt better equipped to understand the way in which she has merged theory with art on this occasion. Although usually I do not take to such precise artworks, there was something about this work that really resonated with my own ideas and choice of imagery. I think that with the Internet now it is very difficult to make choices when it comes to imagery, especially in terms of re appropriation etc. so there is something about the decisiveness of the work that has captured me. It is also the simplicity of the images presentation, spaced out precisely on large boards framed by this academic green that makes the work so effective. Unlike on the Internet the viewing space for these modest, every day images is not cluttered by advertisement and distraction. This is something I need to reconsider with my most recent collage works, as they function primarily on the clutter and disorganisation of the Internet.

Detail from Andrea Büttner’s ‘Images In Kant’s Critique of the Power of Judgement’

There was on particular element of Mikhail Karikis’ ‘Children of Unquiet’ that I am eager to push into my own work. This documentary work explores the social impact of the world’s first geothermal power station in Italy. Due to redundancy many of the workers and their families were forced to abandon the villages they lived in nearby. Karikis explores this recent history through local children returning to one of these abandon villages where they perform eerie synchronisations of movement and sounds. Most interestingly Karakis’ has the children re create the industrial noises of the factory with their voices. It is this relationship between the voice and the surroundings that I am most interested in after reading David Abram’s ‘The Spell of the Sensuous’ since reading this book I have thought a great deal about the way in which our voices mimic the industrial sounds of engines and robotic voices, sounds that we hear everyday, rather than the natural rhythms that our voices were born from.

The highlight of the show for me was Laure Prouvost’s sculptural installation work ‘Hard Drive’. At first this space seems relatively disappointing and dull but then suddenly the fans begin to whir, the lights dim and a spot light swings the work into action. A sleek black chair sits anxiously in the middle of the room between the wind of three industrial fans, a large houseplant, a large hard drive shelved onto the white wall opposite the spectating audience. A robotic voice attempts to seduce viewers into the chair, and it is easy to be seduced when no one is watching. The audio is loud and unforgiving, the sudden shifts in dynamic and tone create an unbearable tension where you are not quite sure if you are being watched and if you are, are you behaving correctly? The entire experience of this installation was exhilarating, ordinarily dull objects swung into life using modest forms of electricity and synchronisation, creating a vibrant exploration fabrication and reality.

Detail from Laure Prouvst’s ‘Hard Drive’

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