by Beth Troakes, Freelance Curator and Gallery Director
Recent upheavals in world politics have seen a united left in the face of a burgeoning right wing populism. Such a unification of disparities seem to infiltrate more than just this strata of public life and for some this whirlwind of difference makes for a terrifying chaos but for the arts, the elevation of difference allows for the uncommon to find their place on a united platform.
Criticism of the canon has already began to mark its downfall and the readily available plurality of media, taught artistic curricula and diversity of voices in arts’ reception will cement its disappearance from authority. Yet, art persists and without this authoritarian history to cling on to and surpass in the creation of a new discriminatory “style”, what is left to unify the disparities within art. If we are to believe it is the context, then in this instance it can’t be ignored that the context lends itself to the uncanny.
Each artist occupies a carefully curated room, each room is identical to the last, save for the artwork that occupies it. It is this replication of the home, the bite sized and luxurious but with all the comforts of being at home for those who for reasons of work or play are not. Having access to all of the rooms only heightens the awareness of this replication.
Feeling at home when one is not is part of the much used rhetoric in advertising the hotel industry but the purporting to the home only serves to emphasise the feeling that one is not there and hence, the familiarity slips into the uncanny.
What does this mean for the art work it contains? This feeling of alienation brings with it a heightened awareness of the objects in their setting. Representation of reality, in place of reality itself offers the distance for critical reflection so imperative for art.
This is again mirrored in the tactics of collage deployed by some of the artists but also the works mediated by the television screens in the rooms. This awareness of experience and of being in the rooms forms a dialectical tension with the tropes of absence that are demarcated in much of the work.
Photographs of decaying buildings highlight the absence of the structures that once stood, the scenes of elderly hands mark a subject who is now missing from the present moment of their experience on the screen, the empty roads are eerily missing their journeys’ takers, even the installations of found objects hint to a bygone situation from which these pieces have been removed.
Unfamiliarity in the familiar, unity based of difference as a means of contesting a common enemy (be it Trump or artistic hegemony) and the exacerbation of absence in a context that is arranged, through the uncanny, for the very experience of presence bestows a reasonable logic for the bringing together of such eclectic artists and makers that surpasses purely market driven forces.