5th July 2007 — 22nd September 2007
Action opened with the great opportunity to assist in Dan Graham's
Performer, Audience, Mirror first performed in 1975. Facing the
audience, Graham thinks aloud, describes whatever detail from the
audience catches his eye and talks about his own feelings at being
standing facing them. In this piece, Graham expresses all he can see
around him, his own attitudes, gestures, clothes, as much as those of
the people surrounding him. The work is about understanding your
perceptual relationship to other people, and encouraging social
relations in the performing space by following the artist's flow of
thoughts and observations. As a member of the audience, you become more
self-conscious with your own relation to the artist, the people around
you and the space you are in.
Many of the works in Imagine Action focus on raising this awareness of our surroundings and the way we define, perceive and relate to them. Placed in the centre of the lower front gallery stands Luca Frei's Untitled (2005), a sculpture of a tree that has been reduced to its most simple forms surrounded by a six small colourful benches. The work explores the divisions made between public and private spheres, creating what seems to be a new space that falls in between both categories by inserting within the gallery a sculpture that you would normally expect to see outdoors as part of those lonely public works that populate the urban landscape.
In the main gallery, Ricardo Basbaum's Diagrams (Superpronoum) (2003 -2007) explore the relations between the pronouns You / Me in what seems to be a mock up of semiotic or Deleuze-like diagrams that take over a whole wall. The presence of other words related to issues of time, space and action stress the relation between You / Me opening up a space where the viewer can locate himself in relation to others. Josephine Pryde's A Sheep (trapped) (2007) gathers a series of photos representing multiple exposures of the same sheep in different colours, as we progress along the series, the dynamism and sense of being trapped increases quite effectively. Runo Langomarsino's single slide projections We All Laughed at Christopher Columbus (2002) and Strange Fruit (2006) continue his approach to history proposing a new way of looking at current and past social and political events through the use of metaphors and symbols that sometimes are not so easy to identify.
In the top floor, Florian Pumhösl presents a series of new prints under the title of Modernology (2007). Probably one of his most formalist works, Modernology follows Pumhösl's investigations into the historical legacies of modernity; its breaks, contradictions, and transformations, by reconstructing exemplary modernist designs. But if some of his previous works offer a much more critical approach to modernity, Modernology falls too easily into plain quotation and recreation of forms without any other critical insight into the legacy of modernity.
Down the road at 29 Bell Street, the ground floor front gallery gathers a series of works that go deeper into formal investigations. Haegue Yang's work remains always something of an incognita, Whatever Being DIN A4, DIN A3/ DIN A2 (2006-7) a series of 6 wooden rectangular panels painted white hanging on the wall recalls some of the investigations on systems of repetition developed by Sol Lewitt, adding dynamism to the white walls in which they hang. From the walls the gaze swiftly moves to the floor, where Gareth Jones' Untitled Structure (2003) lays almost merging with it. Finally, two monitors resting on plinths show Falke Pisano's film Chillida (Forms and Feelings) (2003), where the artist follows her concerns with the existence and formulations of abstract objects, particularly in the field of sculpture, and the possibility of referring to them from a non object based practice, that is with the use of words, video or any other way of communication.
In the lower ground gallery Model for Cinema (2007) is Pia Ronicke's recreation of a small scale architectural landscape in which she projects three films: Zonen (2005), Cell City- A System of Errors (2003) and The Life of Schindler House (2002). Following the form of documentary and looking back to social developments envisaged by the utopias of the beginning of the twentieth century, Ronicke's work investigates what's left from the Big Ideas, how can current social developments influence our surroundings and how the future will appear before us. Next door in a black space is Althea Thaubergers' film Zivildienst != Kunstprojekt (Social service != Art Project) (2006) follows a group of young men set in a three level scaffolding construction. There is no sound to the film but the gestures and expressions of the youngsters suggest that this group of men is discussing something serious. Indeed, Thauberger worked with a group of Berlin based social service draftees for over 3.5 months. In those countries where military service is still compulsory the state offers the alternative of working in community social institutions during a period of nine months. The eight men that joined Thauberger for this project would meet regularly for group discussions on topics ranging from militarism and the social welfare state, to education and nationalism, to popular culture and personal aspirations. Some of them collaborated with Thauberger to make portraits 'in character,' which led to the development of group poses, that evoked some of the themes of their previous group discussions. The outcome is an over-aestheticised, black and white film, in which a group of young men posed in a very self-conscious manner while the premises of the video dissolve in this euphemistic tableau vivant.
Imagine Action presents a great line-up of emerging artists. Most of the works here offer complex referential contents, and at the same time, they also depend on a highly self-reflexive and playful exercise of basic human capacities: perception, affect, thought, expression and relation. Often focusing on new or alternative ways to relate to art, society and our surroundings they offer further investigations on issues such as form, space and the use of language. Nonetheless, for all the promises of change, action and destabilisation of conventional structures that were mentioned on the press release, I was left with the feeling that the works remained too self-referential and aloof, difficult to decipher, thus making it hard to establish a dialogue with the audience. And without this dialogue, it is difficult to imagine anything happening at all.
29 & 52-54 Bell Street
London NW1 5DA