'our creation is that guru; the duration of our lives is that guru; our trials, illnesses and calamaties is that guru. There is a guru that is nearby and a guru that is beyond the beyond. I humbly make my offering to the guru, the beautiful remover of ignorance, the enlightenment principle that is within me and surrounds me at all times.'
Guru Stotram

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Two wonderful things entered my life this week. A MacBook Air and a cat. The MacBook Air came from that haven of all gadgets glorious, the Mac Shop. I've never been into a computer shop I've liked before. Never spoken to a computer vendor I've understood. Now I suddenly get why forty-something girlfriends call me up whispering: "Beverley, I'm in the Mac Shop speaking to the most delightful young man. You must get a Mac."

The moggie is, if possible, even more delicious and beautiful. She came from the Mayhew. She's one year old, white and tortoise shell and she's the sweetest little thing since toast. Yesterday she introduced herself to the MacBook Air by typing very many 3's, followed by switching the volume off.

I'm afraid I've been horribly lazy about my blog recently. Or rather I've been caught up with other pressing matters. I've also been out of London for two months and of course there's no contemporary art outside the capital. It's grim up north you know. That's why they have those huge signposts at the start of the M1 saying THE NORTH. It's not information. It's a warning. And hey, I'm allowed to say that, because I'm a northerner, so no letters in from irate Wiganers please. It's true, there was the Manchester Festival, but I missed that, which I was sorry about as I would have loved to have seen the Marina Abramovich thing.

So, the first bit of contemporary art to cross my retina in two months had to be from those purveyors of contemporary art that's stylish, slick and edgy all at once. Of course, Art Angel.

In the name of bringing one's own subjective position into awareness, I should state that I was in a bad mood when travelling to Wenlock Road. Not that that's a bad thing in itself, but I think it's important as a reviewer to acknowledge that, in a way, the viewer is always creating the art work themselves. In part, if not in its entirety, the art work, and indeed the world, is a manifestation of one's internal landscape. And I was cross when I entered Ryan Gander's Locked Room Scenario. Which may (or may not) explain why I didn't really enjoy it, despite the fact that a bit of immersive installation (if I can use that ambiguous term du jour) is usually exactly my bag.

Locked Room Scenario is an exhibition in a depot in East London. But, when you get there the exhibition is ostensibly shut. Doors locked. No going in. So the 'exhibition' as it were, that is to say Ryan Gander's art work, is the viewer's engagement with the setting in which this locked exhibition space is located. The viewer walks down the various corridors that surround the exhibition, coming across nooks and crannies though which to steal a glimpse of what may be hidden beyond; a slide projector clicks through images seen via a mirror you have to lie on the floor to look in, a shadowy figure moves about behind a locked and frosted glass door, one corridor is so dark you have to grope your way along the wall. That was unnerving. At one point I gained confidence from a woman who was following a short distance behind me. I wasn't alone. I looked back a second or two later and she was gone.

Yet for all of that I still didn't really like Locked Room Scenario. It was quite fun I suppose in the way that the fairground might be thought of as quite fun. But it was clunky, a bit obvious and, dare I say it, a bit derivative. At the risk of revealing my ignorance I must confess that Mike Nelson sprang to mind and in the comparison, for me at least, Ryan Gander didn't come out that well. Probably if Mike Nelson or Ryan Gander were to read this they'd both be cursing such a banal observation. Nevertheless, Mike Nelson's works, Coral Reef I'm thinking of particularly, seemed to have more depth, more engagement and more narrative. The 'is it real, is it fiction' boundary blurring game has also been played with greater panache and success by other contemporary artists, notably I'm thinking of Jill Magid. It's rather the leitmotif of the moment.

The best bit was two supposed junkies, teenagers, looking slightly out of it, sitting in the concrete stairwell as I first entered the depot. For a nice middle class girl like me they were a bit nervous-making I'm slightly embarrassed to admit. I hid behind the door and listened to their conversation. I imagine it was scripted. The boy was talking about women and the fact that some girls reveal everything about themselves straight away whilst others are more complicated, revealing themselves slowly over time. So that was a hint for anyone who wasn't quite getting Locked Room Scenario. It's good folks, because it doesn't reveal itself all at once. Aha, it has hidden depths. I guess I must be the shallow type then because I'm still waiting for those hidden depths to reveal themselves and so far… no dice. I can't help thinking though that if you have to signal to someone upfront about how deep and meaningful you are for fear they might otherwise miss that fact, it's not a portentous sign.

Locked Room Scenario
Londonnewcastle Depot
N1 7SL
until 23 October

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