16th October 2009 — 19th October 2009
The name change from as Zoo Art Fair to Zoo 2009 was not the only alteration to this London event in its sixth instalment. The venue last year was the grand building behind the Royal Academy of Arts. In 2009, Zoo moved to the East End to be housed at a rough ex-industrial site off Shoreditch High Street. Traditionally the 'young galleries' fair', Zoo 2009 had to adapt to Frieze Art Fair's usurpation of their usual ambit with the Frame section. The saving grace of Frieze is usually the Projects and the occasional invited pauper gallery, pockets of freshness and credibility among the rows of commercialised art fair stands. With Frame, this dimension of Frieze was enhanced. The rough flooring, the whirring of 16 mm projectors, crowds of non-Rolex wearing/non-Botoxed art professionals and an the efforts of the solo 'emerging' artists made this section the most interesting place to be.
Zoo 2009 adapted to this takeover by scaling down their usual galleries' section and by including an editions sale area, a Solo Works section and inviting in four curated projects. The editions sale, with affordable editions of art works proved popular, but was, in fact, just another platform for established art institutions such as the Whitechapel Gallery, the Serpentine and the ICA to sell their wares. The galleries' section proved underwhelming and compared unfavourably to previous editions of Zoo, though encountering the work of Stuart Brisley from the 1970s was a pleasant surprise, and Lokal 30 from Warsaw put on an interesting display. Within the Solo Works section, Juan Fontanive's small, kinetic sculptures at Riflemaker stood out as fascinating and subtly humorous. Another highlight of Zoo was Clunie Reid's solo show, which showed why she is considered one of the rising stars on the London art scene. Her video, Things Fly About/ The Aesthetics of Fucked (2009), is a multi-coloured montage of imagery and gleaned from popular TV channels – from cartoons to soft pornography – repeated and crosscut together to the pulsating beat of the soundtrack. Her wall-based installation This is Now! was an collage of new paper cuttings, photography, onomatopoeia, dismembered limbs, scrawled Emin-esque confessional snippets and images from gossip magazines. Splicing imagery from celebrity culture has long been a popular device, particularly among younger artists, but Reid's strict patterning of black, gaffer-taped lines contains and focuses the mayhem, bringing order to the diverse associations in her weird and wonderful world.
The curated sections were a central part of Zoo 2009. The projects were dominated by moving image work, with FormContent's The Filmic Convention and LUX's Film As A Subversive Act, a collaborative project with curating students from Goldsmiths. Both these curatorial ventures were well worth the visit, but may have benefited from a different setting more amenable to the time required to see them. The fact that these projects changed daily, meant that anyone wanting to see all instalments would have to return to Zoo four times. Rob Tufnell's curatorial project Altogether Elsewhere explored psychedelia in contemporary art using the legend of the flying carpet and ancient shamanistic rituals as pivoting points in an exhibition that included references to Mike Nelson's mythological biker gang, The Amnesiacs, Joyce Campbell'a black and white images of plants, and Jim Lambie's vertical assemblage on the wall, which looked like it had been sourced from a Chihuahuan desert tribe. Having highlighted just a few artists, I should say this gem of an exhibition cannot be captured by such synecdoche. The labyrinthine rough interior of the venue was well suited to the curatorial premise and the pacing of the works generated their own offbeat trajectory, a garden of forking paths.
It was telling that the highlights of Zoo 2009 were found beyond the galleries' section. With the Frieze takeover, maybe Zoo's enforced identity check will yield a different and more interesting format for future instalments.
Natalie Hope O'Donnell
3-10 Shoreditch High Street
London E1 6PG