2nd May 2007 — 24th June 2007
24 June when Stay Forever and Ever and Ever like all things will pass,
this ambitious exhibition at South London Gallery brings together
eleven international artists in response to ideas about memory and
objects, objects and their reception. Entering Stay Forever and Ever
and Ever is a bit like opening a neglected cupboard and being
physically confronted by objects hidden and long forgotten; the visitor
descending the gallery steps is pinioned immediately by a two-pronged
intervention. Monika Sosnowska's installation Untitled, 2006 confronts
us up ahead and Martin Boyce's Frozen Fall, 2007 from above.
Sosnowska's sculptural works, a collection of 22 black objects that
resemble misshapen plinths or props, litter the entrance and impede the
obvious path into the exhibition; Boyce's steel and wire construction
hangs over the doorway like a threat.
Works included in the exhibition sometimes draw upon commonplace and recycled materials and offer ready cultural references and sources. However this is an exhibition that hopes for an intuitive viewer who will negotiate connections between objects; the written materials that accompany the exhibition are suggestive rather than instructive and the title taken from a repetitive Kylie Minogue refrain is evocative rather than didactic. Memory is a contentious and continually debated field and Stay Forever and Ever and Ever curated by Andrew Renton, director of the MFA Curating programme at Goldsmiths' College, positions itself as a response rather than a theoretical intervention.
Some objects act as useful markers as we begin to negotiate this ambiguous collection. Michael Fullerton's Seminal Event (Vidal Sasson Corp. Executive Board 1968), 2007, a triptych of screen-prints showing the same banal image but fading slightly with each repetition, presents a snapshot of the problem of remembering the past event and speaks of the compulsion to archive. With this in mind Georg Herold's Rude Museum, 1993, a museum case containing the fragments of objects in daily use: a rusted mirror, a broken watch strap, the nib of a pen, becomes a poignant and desperate representation of this archival tendency in personal life.
However the exhibition is most ambitious in the inclusion of awkward objects that invoke their own past lives. Hokusai's Octupai, 2004 and The Wall, 2003, amateurish theatrical props made for past performances by Spartacus Chetwynd are now presented detached from their original context and with minimal explanation. Out of proper time and place, Chetwynd's objects become inexplicable signifiers of the absent event. Marten Baas' Smoke, 2004, inhabits a similarly ambiguous position in relation to other artworks. Baas, better known as a designer has reworked an Ettore Sottsass-designed piece of furniture by burning it into a charcoaled version of the 'room divider'; his new object presents an uncomfortable image of the domestic where violence is perceptible at the surface.
However some works manage only a nostalgic appropriation of materials and references and do not succeed in resituating them or gaining critical leverage. Abraham Cruzvillegas' wooden assemblage topped by broken bottles supports a chaotic mobile of further daily detritus and seems simply to delight in its materials; unlike Georg Herold's museum it fails to transform ephemera into something more permanent or meaningful. Jeroen de Rijke and Willem de Rooij's piece Bouquet II, 2003, a regularly refreshed bunch of flowers chosen for their specific cultural resonances simply looks pretty amid the collection and its conceptual basis is lost in the jostle with other more substantial works. However with its emphasis on evoking connections rather than drawing conclusions, Stay Forever and Ever and Ever seems willing to support the inevitable problems inscribed in its ambitious themes. A new configuration of past works by Andreas Slominski introduces the motif of the trap into the visual landscape: a small model hearse sits on the gallery floor with a mousetrap jammed inside while a ceramic receptacle Untitled (Bird Trap), 1997 is discreetly placed above a gallery door opposite. The pair of traps became for me the memorable image of Stay Forever and Ever and Ever, an exhibition that presents a treacherous terrain that we navigate awkwardly and thoughtfully.
South London Gallery
65 Peckham Road
London SE5 8UH