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Thursday, 25 March 2010


[Details on Request] went to Bristol to see some very good friends, some art and lots of rain.

At the Arnolfini:

Firstly, Janek Simon, a Polish artist who had been artist in residence at the Arnolfini in 2008/9.  The exhibition attempts to understand globalization and the shrinking of our world. Taking Paul Virilio’s idea of the end of Geography as a starting point Simon looks at key locations in the history of the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade Triangle of West Coast Africa, the Caribbean and Bristol.  The end of Geography looks at the problems that face us due to the increase in communication across the world resulting in the loss of cultural differences.


This exhibition was of particular interest to me as my family comes from Trinidad, a Caribbean island where the majority of the population can be traced by to West Africa via the slave trade. Simon used a map of Trinidad in his piece 'Time-space compression of Trinidad' 2010, in which he uses a wooden sculpture to show the actual time distances between places on the map.  I felt that it was very honest for a Bristol gallery to acknowledge the cities involvement with the shipping of slaves and their produce.


Simon analyses these emotional and provocative issues in a clinical scientific way, which is successful in highlighting the difficulty of making sense of these topics, and more broadly the problems with understanding the emotional and abstract.  Conveying his personal experience is an important part of his work.  Simon’s work looks at himself in relation to the natives and to other consumer tourists and his attempts to get outside of the average tourist experience.

In the last gallery was the interactive installation ‘Carpet Invader’ 2002.  The work emphasizes the idea of world becoming one; a prayer mat turned computer game.  Of course, we played on it and were easily distracted by the lights, explosions and desire to win the game and it was only when we came away that we looked back on the concept of the piece of work and what we had been doing.


Also on show was work by Imogen Stidworthy.  Her video, sound works and installations look at speech, language and translation.


‘Get here’ 2006, a commonly heard Liverpudlian phrase, was played from multiple speakers voiced by multiply voices into a central space.  Hearing one phrase highlighted the differences in all our voices.  Our accents give us a geographically identity but our individual tones and pitch give us our personal identity.


‘Topography of a Voice’ 2008/9 turned this personal identity into some thing tangible.  What makes our voice recognizable as us can be analysed, dissected and broken down.  I was interested in the way the work turned sound into something visual.


In ‘I Hate’ 2007, I noted how speech and communication is not just limited to our voice.  After the art photographer Edward Woodman lost his ability to speak because of a cycling accident he began to photograph the building of the Eurostar terminal at King’s Cross.  In video works I was drawn to the way in which he had to rely on the use of his hands and gestures to aid his spoken communication.


This reminded me of something I had read in Milan Kundera’s ‘Immortality’ on the importance of the gesture:


‘Without the slightest doubt, there are far fewer gestures in the world than there are individuals.  That finding leads us to a shocking conclusion: a gesture is more individual than an individual.  We could put it in the form of an aphorism: many people, few gestures.’


In ‘Barrabackslarrabang’ 2009/10, a video piece, again our attention is drawn to the gestures of the subjects.  Stidworthy’s video work looks at Liverpool backslang, a type of code used primarily by the criminal classes to protect themselves from being understood by others- namely the law.


[Amber S. V. Ablett]

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