Mary's Room (Epiphenomenal Qualia), 2013

"The air smelled of smoke and rain..."


Act One; Zombie Poverty, ARTicle Gallery, BCU.

29th Oct - 20th Nov 2013.

Review by Sally Bailey, Writer in Residence.



This was an ambitious exhibition in three parts - a show that precociously opened and closed on the same night, leading into a series of micro-residences, and culminating in this second opening of unpredicted and undirected outcomes. It was always going to be a difficult journey.


This was not to be an exhibition based on polite curatorial etiquette - Auluk was out to disrupt right from the off, with this highly experimental de/evolving residency programme ultimately defining the success or otherwise of his endeavour. His strategy was risky, and his enthusiasm admirable.


The gallery space is heavily populated; disparate objects made and remade, found and reformed. Film-works colliding, visually layering, physically obscuring. Appropriated plaster-cast statues from the BIAD collection incongruously placed. Noise. Noise. Noise. A small vase of freesias perfume the air with their fragile, heady aroma. The smell of danger persists.


We stand here unsure. Unsure of what we are being invited to see, and unsure of how to see it. Above our heads, huge glass globes threaten to fall from the lights that are unable to fulfil their function. We stand here in an unnatural night-time, a permenant half-darkness; the borrowing of light from the projectors our only comfort. It all feels very precarious. Reach out and touch me. Simultaneously drawn in and shut out.


The first work encoutered is an audio/visual exhibit by Oscar Cass-Darweish, based on his experiences in Palestine. The faintest of illuminations on the i-pad screen, echoing the echoed, fading until lost. Lingering traces, blurred spaces and whispered shadows - the piece is as quiet as it is sophisticated, as troubling as it is soothing. It is touchable, but mostly remains untouched.


The main exhibition space is dominated by the collected film projections of Michael Robinson, Stuart Layton and Dan Auluk; the angle of the projection is skewed, and the uninvited sculptural forms unashamedly puncture the picture space. The film-works are disparate and unattributed - but hugely successful in offering a path through this desolate landscape. The works by Robinson are particularly key; "riding the fine lines between humour and terror, nostalgia and contempt, ecstacy and hysteria...fusing popular film and television culture, sound and music to create a hyper-real and mezmerising disruption and dislocation from the original source."


Intersecting the gallery space is a sculpture by Megan Albright, formed of found breeze blocks, perspex sheet and bin liners. There is a tension in the piece that further acts as a barrier in the room - suggesting movement, it remains static. We remain static with it; it cannot help us find our exit after all. Interferance. Static. Pulse. Strobe. Breathe. On the TV monitor, Obama walks away, walks away slowly. The slide projector provides the background hum of the no-longer needed.


An arresting performance by Mark Ellis is the main draw at this second opening, as we begin to feel that connections can indeed be made here, and that all hope is not lost. Only the bravest venture, one by one, behind the billowing curtain to be tenderly embraced and to passively receive the whispered words from Ellis. The emergent recipients of this encounter appear comforted. For those less brave, the vaguest of outlines give only the vaguest of suggestions; there is the anticipation of events that may be beyond our control, but not beyond our understanding. And it is at this very point that Ellis himself emerges; wrapped sheath-like in the fabric of the curtain - his nakedness providing a visual reference point to our own vulnerability within this intimate and troubling arena. We stand, as zombies, silent and motionless; unable to avert our gaze from the flesh offered to us.