30 July 2011 § Leave a comment
‘Sous les paves, la plage’ were the words scrawled on a Parisian shop front during the Paris student riots of May 1968. This exhibition tries to draw on the fact that earlier this year the same phrase was scrawled on to a wall at UCL during the student riots. An idea that quite rightly should have been considered but perhaps put aside for, as the press release from the Paradise Row gallery correctly points out, ‘the slogan seemed strangely second-hand, insubstantial and inert’.
A strange starting point for an exhibition that I feel inevitably does not work very well. The original slogan inspired by the Situationist movement of Guy Debord alluded to a utopian world of imagination, freedom and liberty that lay below – or beyond – the consumerist manufactured world. Paradise Row seeks to reflect on the fact that this beach has ‘long since been colonised by capital’ and ‘explores the debris and flotsam that have washed up on the receding shores’.
There is certainly plenty of debris and flotsam around (what about the jetsam for jetsam fans!?) and it is hard therefore to make out any real theme here and draw any meaningful connections between the visual clutter around the gallery. There are some interesting works – I quite liked the two Clunie Reid offerings as well as Diann Bauer’s Mural and Peter Lewis’s Project for a Film. I particularly enjoyed Jeremy Hutchison’s Incorrect Product contacting manufacturers around the world he asked them to make their product with a design fault – of their own choosing – that rendered it useless. We therefore have glasses that cannot be worn, a hat with no hole for the head, a trombone without a blowpiece, a stepladder with legs of varying lengths and so on. The communications, often unintentionally humorous, are available to read. A nice variation perhaps on Oscar Wilde’s famous assertion that ‘all art is useless’.
Am I being too picky? Perhaps there was more to unify the exhibition with more time taken to examine and explore, but it is a minor criticism as Paradise Row are an excellent small gallery and I will inevitably be back to see what they do next.
Paradise Row 74 Newman St, London W1T 3DB until 13 August 2011