Friday, 15 July 2016

Review of Exhibition at Safe House 1 & 2 Gallery 'Comfort for Combat'

I arrive at 7.05 pm and I meet my host at the door of a Victorian property on a wet Friday evening.

I am guided up one flight of stairs where the dark cloth acts as the curtain between a special place and myself. I enter the space and the whole room comes into view. The venue is in a house that has been stripped back so the wooden pallets on the floor don't look a bit out of place. I see three holes in the floor and I feel rather uneasy. Even feet as large as mine could go through these holes. I have to remain calm and really look after all I've made the effort to get here and engage with the work. Looking is something that you have to do in this space but your ears have work to do as well as one's sense of smell and balance. It is a total experience or at least that's my impression.

The 'holes' are square mirrors, this is confirmed when my host steps onto one of them. I heard several other visitors remark on the 'holes' so well played Joe.

The room is a former bedroom and bathroom. The white tiles that remain remind me of some scary places I've been to in my past (or could it be my future). In this former domestic space I find pallet seats and clothing adorning the walls. Fixed on wire coat hangers you half expect someone to come in and dress for an evening out on the town.

This installation is a curious thing. I sat down and watched the main event the short films offered by two young artists. There are no captions so the work cannot be identified with its author but this is no problem. The screen was a metal frame about 4 or 5 feet high with the cloth/canvas stretched across it like a sacrificial prophet who wouldn't make it to the end of the first reel. I heard that the cloth was the property of an exiled person and this really lent something to the content that was to dance across it on a loop.

I will start with the film that is a visual and audio collage/edit, it is rather direct and hard to watch if your have a weak stomach for such things. I felt this was an excellent piece of political satire. We are shown a terrible world where money and freedom are equated as 'Good' while children scream and blood, bombs and bullets reshape reality. The powerful touch is where major film studios logos or logotypes are emblazoned across this ballet of destruction. More powerful still was the sound at the end without image. The ripple in the cloth/canvas suggesting an exaggerated smile or grimace.

Next we have a video game film where the POV of the games protagonist plays out like Alan Clarke's 1989 TV film 'Elephant.' Simulated violence is real violence still as the imagination is where our greatest horrors truly live.

We also see three peaceful films the first showing the moon behind clouds perhaps at night or influenced by filters. It is compelling but the meaning was lost on me. The second a red disc against a bold background leads me to ponder national flags and causes that are always framed under the banner of right or wrong. This piece is the most dreamlike and left me to wonder if I would follow any flag waved in front of me. The raw visceral colours were unsettling but graphically powerful. The third film was without sound and seemed to depict the movement of life against the backdrop of life. We watch the hand to see what it will do next but we are less aware of the context that this movement is truly a part of. The cool blue filter of this film was the most restful of the pieces I saw and it gave pause for thought.

The space was busy with visitors coming and going but it was a place where conversation flowed and the sense of place lingers in the mind long after I explored the rest of the exhibition.

I never saw the means of projection or the source of the audio so I assume they were behind the screen. I don't know if acoustic tests were done in the space prior to the exhibition opening but the audio though dissipated to a degree depending on the number of visitors in the space did a great job of adding to my desire to find comfort from this combat.

Karl Foster - Wednesday 27 April 2016

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