12th May 2007 — 24th June 2007
Writing, 2006, dominates the first room of the galleries of Herald
Street. Back projected onto the screen is a silent series of found and
filmed images. The Tate bookshop critical theory section, Tony Blair in
a secondary school, digital TV and fast food ads form a sequence of
social, cultural, political one-liners. Branding is ubiquitous, Oliver
Payne & Nick Relph appear to be telling us, and it all looks the
same. More it's not what you're selling but how you're selling it; the
commodification of the world is complete and there's no difference
between the Tate Modern and any of the other companies that did its
branding - Orange, First Direct, Go, Heathrow Express...
Unlike in earlier pieces though, such as their first film in a trilogy Driftwood, 2000, there is no narration or indeed narrative and this lack gives the images more room for manoeuvre. The game of recognising each nameless brand fills the room and you're not sure how to feel about recognising things. Without a Digenesis creating relations, the images take on an eerie ghost-like quality.
A grid of mirrors is suspended in front of the screen these reflect the light of another projection at the front of the room. The changing abstract colours of the images are not synchronised with the back projection; instead they act to partially obscure it. The mirrors make the images hard to watch, it hurts the eyes to strains through then but it also gives them another layer - a disco aesthetic that superimposes itself on the critique and further acts to empty the images of meaning.
Payne and Relph aren't telling me anything I don't already know with their use of these objects and images. There's nothing new here, I've heard it before both from their work and a thousand other places, but where it does serve to make an impact is in its positioning of the viewer. How I view the works - from above or below, through the obstructions - affects how I read the images; as such, it means that their being obscured personalises my relationship with them. Payne and Ralph's opaque rendition of contemporary branding is a mesmerising distortion mirror which at once highlights banality and is aware of its own banality and paradoxes.
2 Herald Street
London E2 6JT