Nothing about Trees
On October 24, 2013, Cristina Bodgan
Probably the most exciting art shows I have seen recently were those I could relate to an experience – of light, of space; of environment in general. It seems as though single artworks – or even installations – are no longer efficient in producing aesthetic experiences for the viewer. With the omnipresence of what used to be called “new media”, the necessity for an experience to come from a state of immersion has risen. Contemplation is replaced by a more physical approach, the body becoming the subject of experience as much as the mind; in fact, art environments develop an organic approach to the human subject, proposing to reunite him with the world.
For such purposes, the landscape genre is an immediate solution. The show put together by 16 artists in a forgotten factory in North London, Nothing about Trees, regroups a variety of approaches to landscape, from paintings to object-based installations, to light shows using slides and transparent surfaces. The result is an open invitation to a walk into a place of mystery. Scenography is essential: after an initial open space, in which Pallas Citroen’s massive lighted sculpture of a fold bewilders the viewer, the show spreads into all directions, with pieces hidden around corners and under arches. Some are never what they seem to be – such as Mela Yerka’s mysterious moon painting or Dillan Marsh’s assemblages of too familiar objects. Others are built in time, only to break into perfect pieces – as in Giusy Pirrotta’s work. Light has the power to wake more than just the eye, and all of the works are constantly changed by beams of all shapes and sizes.
The figure of the landscape thus appears both in the individual works and in the show as a whole. One can fragment the space ad infinitum and still find himself in a liveable place. Immersion is the product of repetition and extension. The body is engaged and freed at the same time. This is a most beautiful attempt at defining the organic.
Artists: Carolina Ambida, Pallas Citroen, Eleanor Clare, Eleni Foundoukis, Tom Harrison, John Higgins, Iyvone Khoo, Tom Mason, Dillan Marsh, Bjorn Mortensen, Olivia Notaro, Elsa Philippe, Justin Piperger, Giusy Pirrotta, Ben Turner, Mela Yerka.
Nothing about Trees is at Unit 2C, Elthorne Road Studios, Boothby Road, London N19.
Opening times: 20th, 22nd-25th, 11am-6pm, with a closing afternoon on 26th from 4-8pm.
Through the grainy unsteady image and the sound, distorted by low quality compression, it
seems like something is trying to break through. The first few seconds sound like noise
pulled through a synthesizer, screaming and kicking as it emerges, fighting for life in its new
digital form. Something about it is alarming, frightening, tortured and angry. It is half-formed,
raw and unrefined. Streaks of red and white light flash across the screen.
It is an arena for action. Something about this situation that is chaotic; yet there is an
element of control. The driver makes tight circles around a central axis. At first this is
demarcated by a traffic cone, but as things proceed, the silhouette of a young man moves into the
centre. The car stops and revs up, creating billows of smoke in the air, obliterating vision for
a few moments. As the car skids and screeches, I feel a sense of alarm. This is coming close to
disaster for the lone, central figure, potential victim of the anonymous driver, a sacrifice for
the entertainment of onlookers. I can sense also the collusion. One figure willingly places his
trust in the other. There is a tension between these two.
A smoky, fiery object is spinning recklessly. One might say things had spun out of control.
Not quite though; for to completely lose control would mean total destruction. It would mean the
end. It all went up in flames. This is a sudden, intense and short lived burst of energy. More
like a supernova than the sun, and more akin to a meteor careering around a planet, than a planet
orbiting the sun. It was more than this, though. This scene was not simply about objects in space;
it was human. It was a game or a task, perhaps even a ritual.
Although I can identify it as a human activity, shot through with the implications of one's
relationship to another, from my vantage point it also seemed anonymous. In the dark, these
figures could be anyone, totally unrecognisable by the light of day. In this moment they had a
relationship to one another. Certainly for the two central protagonists, it was one of great
significance and trust. At any other time, on any other level, it was unclear. In this sense, the
action had become symbolic. The figures could be understood as archetypes. Ones which, for reasons
I cannot yet identify, I associate with the masculine.
In the threat of a loss of control, images had already flooded my mind. I remember as the
helicopters circled in the air above my house one evening in August. I had no idea why it was
happening, but this circling was incessant, the noise repeatedly coming close and fading away,
swelling and receding, but never quite out of my consciousness. It always gives me a slight sense
of unease, the idea of something being under surveillance, coupled with the notion that something
might be wrong. Why this surveillance from such a great height? It is a safe distance for the one
who watches. Then I remembered the destruction that had taken place, just minutes away from my home.
The aerial images of buildings and cars set alight, and rioters surging through the streets, anonymous
from this point of view. London's Burning.