‘with words like smoke’ 20.01.10 – 20.02.10 @ CHELSAE space #30

‘with words like smoke’

curated by Isobel Harbison

20.01.10 – 20.02.10 @ CHELSAE space #30

Another Becket reference in a contemporary art exhibition but this time it is relevant. ‘[…] with words like smoke, I can’t go, I can’t stay, let’s see what happens next’ is the quote at the beginning of the introductory text to the exhibition. The uncertainty in the last part could be seen as a metaphor for this show. The artworks seem all so different, therefore trying to explain the experience leaves you wordless. Isobel Harbison, the curator of the exhibition, clarifies in the accompanying catalogue that the body of works are gathered on the basis of a shared momentum and to understand the mutual relation, a physical sketch would actually be unavoidable.

Since a physical sketch is impossible to conceive in words and words are all there is to review this exhibition the impossible must become possible, but subjectivity overrules. Entering the space the video by Lois Rowe Argument for Design (2006) introduces us to the dilemma between the colours black and green and their struggle to overpower each other in the suggested connection to the architecture shown. Like most of the works in the show, the understanding and re-figuration of what there is to be seen happens after the first impression has disappeared.

On a stool beside Rowe’s work lies a pile of A4 paper with an image of a classroom full of young children behind their desks, hands folded, smiling to the camera; 27 Interruptions (2010) is a new work by Cally Spooner. What these 27 interruptions are and might be doesn’t become clear. Even though the text on the reversed side of the paper gives you the idea that there is some sort of logic to it. But, the number 27 is nothing more then a thing, not even a physical object but a starting point of something that will become evident at the end of the exhibition.

Desire is the key to an understanding the interrelations of works on show. Carl Andre’s poem Desire (1966) published in the artist’s edition and displayed in a glass showcase, mentions different body parts, written sometimes back to front and put into unusual clusters. The newly suggested relations between the body parts, is a beautiful metaphor for the show. As reflected in Fergus Martin’s photograph Table (2009) is outstanding in its indexical qualities. This particular table, is reminiscent of the different ways in which the photograph functions and its ability to confront us in an awakening of an intracebility with the subject’s spectacle, as mentioned by Barthes in Camera Lucida.[1]

Like the works already mentioned the other all have the ability to give one an understanding that needs no prior knowledge. They speak for themselves although often without words. The different materials, forms and styles generate their meaning inside the viewers body and like Carl Andre once claimed, they can be understood without a need to necessarily speak out loud.

By – Fleur van Muiswinkel


[1] Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida, p. 119

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