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Exhibition Review – Ireland Roundup, Art Monthly, Issue 431 (November 2019)

November 10, 2019

Sligo, Cork and Leitrim Round-up

The Model • The Glucksman • The Dock

Immersive audio-visual environments are central to Torsten Lauschmann’s exquisite solo exhibition at The Model, his first in Ireland. The exhibition title, ‘13 September 1752’, references a shift from the Julian to Gregorian Calendar that year, whereupon 11 days were omitted from the month of September. This ‘date that never existed’ suitably embodies the artist’s compulsion to identify porous or incomplete systems of knowledge. In his installation War of the Corners, 2018, a dimly lit space is wrapped with faux-brick vinyl. ‘Pixelated’ holes in the brickwork become dual receptacles for film projections, establishing a set of recurring binary relations between analogue and digital, spirituality and posthumanism, order and chaos. Several sculptural assemblages are periodically animated on low plinths. Against the synthetic hum of white noise, these automated instruments create a strangely tribalistic soundscape. A suspended walking stick knocks against a Tibetan singing bowl, generating irregular metallic chimes that syncopate with the membranophonic thuds of a swinging pellet drum. A concurrent light show activates square panels below, at one stage synchronising with disembodied hand clapping appearing on screen. In the film, digital figures are depicted hurtling painlessly from tall buildings, plummeting through internal mechanisms or repeatedly falling down steps, mimicking a video game loop in which progression to the next level cannot be achieved. Inevitably, they embrace failure and surrender to flux. In another scene, candles flicker assuredly below heavenly constellations. At the Centre of Everything a Row of Holes, 2011, probes the historical trajectory of automation, playfully highlighting both its utility and seductiveness. Roving light projections traverse the walls, while a carnivalesque soundscape fills the space. Automated elements are systematically activated: a player piano delivers pre-programmed music; a cymbal-banging toy monkey screeches and bares its teeth. Meanwhile, a cinematic montage features weaving loom punch-cards, scrolling computer code and a flying carpet, which flaps lightly before unravelling into composite lines. All Seats Were Occupied, 2019, recreates the transient and speculative space of a ferry journey, complete with simulated seascape and soothing music. Inflatable pool accessories masquerade as ring buoys and fire extinguishers, underscoring their inadequacy as lifesaving devices. One thinks of the multitude in flux across the Mediterranean Sea – a conflicted territory, governed by asymmetrical power structures. Frozen by glitches, a glistening foil descends on the turbulent waves, rendering them as luminescent as stardust. Recurring across the exhibition are real-time digital clocks (perpetually drawing our attention to the present moment), ring-binders (suggesting ordered systems of knowledge) and walking aids – symbolic of the failing, augmented or absent body. Also inferred are the psychological (and technological) crutches we all use to distract ourselves from existential anxieties. It feels as though Lauschmann’s magical kinetic interiors are encouraging us to embrace complexity and uncertainty, while retaining a childlike wonderment about the world.

Uniquely positioned within the University College Cork campus, The Glucksman’s exhibition programme nurtures connections between scholarly disciplines. Currently showing is ‘Circadian Rhythms’, developed in partnership with APC Microbiome Ireland, which is currently researching links between gut microbes and metabolic diseases. Focusing on human nocturnal patterns, the exhibition is comparatively modest, with several monochromatic and tonally subdued works displaying similar levels of restraint. The achromatic sparseness found within Michael Landy’s delicate botanical etchings and David Beattie’s twinkling polyurethane panels is contrasted against the inky blackness of photographs by Caoimhe Kilfeather and Michael John Whelan documenting suburban twilight and remote night skies respectively. Kilfeather’s inclusion of a chunk of polished coal further anchors her observations within geo-temporal landscapes. Offering counterpoints to these quieter moments are robust cinematic and sculptural interjections, such as Suki Chan’s two-channel video Sleep Walk, Sleep Talk, 2009, which tracks London’s nocturnal environments, endlessly gravitating towards the light. Time-lapse footage depicts trains snaking through subterranean tunnels, punctuated by streaking headlamps and dayglo signals; panning shots convey the night-time allure of glass-fronted retail spaces, illuminated from within; fatigued shift workers reflect on the freedoms permitted by city life. Recurring horizontal stripes (reminiscent of views through venetian blinds) allow us to conceive the city as increasingly abstract, while relentless nocturnal activity reflects the exponential accumulation of time and money – factors that ultimately govern the evolution of metropolitan space. Another highlight is Barbara Knezevic’s multimedia installation Exquisite tempo sector, 2016, in which contrasting elements are loosely bound by a framing device, making visible ‘staging’ mechanisms and inherent modes of seeing. The hypermodern, mercurial veneer of a horizontal monitor – periodically activated as both light-emitter and image-maker, displaying magnified, almost molecular textures – contrasts with the botanical sprawl of houseplants and the handcrafted surfaces of rudimentary, earthenware pots. A stray curl of clay memorialises the maker’s imprint, probing sculpture’s ancient materiality – a continuing inquiry involving geological and ritualistic artefacts which render her compelling propositions increasingly shrine-like. Perhaps most arresting is Jitish Kallat’s Glyph, 2013, a cast-concrete child-size mattress elevated on brutalist girders, like those supporting motorway flyovers. If Glyph solemnises the places where Mumbai street children must sleep, then Kallat’s lumpen deity, Covariance (Sacred Geometry), 2017, becomes a necessary embodiment of wide-eyed vigilance. To my mind, this fossil-like form recalls Hindu god of the heavens, Indra (meaning ‘rain drop’), who was cursed with a thousand eyes. Brilliantly channelling a uniquely conflicted Indian vernacular, Kallat’s work is grounded in the realities of poverty while simultaneously harnessing celestial vantagepoints, including those of his ‘Rain Study’ series, which resemble cosmological diagrams.

Maud Cotter’s solo exhibition at The Dock, ‘a consequence of – a breather of air’, exemplifies the artist’s intimate, almost metaphysical relationship with her materials. In Gallery One, a large tubular structure, matter of fact, 2016, has a diagrammatic quality, suggesting an exercise in drawing in space. Its preoccupations, however, are deeply engrained in the politics of everyday life, including an analysis of the properties of imported steel (necessitated by the collapse of the steel industry). Cotter is responsive to micro details and points of tension, as well as the intangible qualities of ‘matter’ – such as the memory of molecules, or the harnessing of energy and air. Throughout the exhibition, artwork titles are reiterated in cursive writing on gallery walls, like murmurs of overheard conversations. A series of sculptures, mounted high on the mezzanine wall, are spot lit to dramatic effect. These ethereal, flotsam-like forms echo the buoyant and bioluminescent properties of marine life – a nautical inquiry reinforced through Cotter’s use of netting and limpet-style relief elements. In Gallery Three, a group of slightly forlorn objects rests on a bed-like shelf. Several variations of used hot water bottles have been chopped, split and cast – a process the artist likens to ‘gutting fish and retaining the heads’. In different states of warping and degradation, these rubbery amputees unfurl and fold in on themselves. Having once radiated with heat, they disclose memories of the human body that have since been displaced. Playing with the high-reaching proportions of Gallery Two are two sculptural arrangements achieved through the inscription of vertical lines in space. In a breather of air, 2019, polythene sheeting is dropped from above and draped over two rock-like structures. Nearby is a grouping of ten ‘bubbles’, comprising differently sized glass domes, whose contents are in a perpetual state of spilling beyond their inscribed boundaries. The repeated use of glass allows a sense of fusion among the detritus, based on how readily it absorbs other material boundaries. As a museological device, glass vitrines have long been associated with the display of cherished objects. Cotter’s ‘bubbles’ also call to mind self-sustaining botanical terrariums, offering a useful metaphor for the organisation of human thought into autonomous disciplinary fields. The ultimate synthesis of the assembled objects into one cosmological body suggests, however, that we only ever achieve small pockets of order – that beyond these regulated chambers exists a rogue and chaotic exterior realm.

Joanne Laws is features editor of The Visual Artists’ News Sheet.

Featured Image: Maud Cotter, installation detail, Gallery Two; Image courtesy The Dock

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