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Projecting Space at the Central Saint Martin’s MA Show

As an artist a lot of my work involves video in one form or another, but the disjuncture between the space of the video and the space of the room it’s in never really satisfies me. And so it might be to bridge the gap between the stuff of the artwork and the stuff of the world that I’ve started to work more with moving and static objects.

Walking around the MA show at Central Saint Martin’s the other week made me wonder whether there’s a trend in this direction. This year’s work struck me as being characterised by both a sculptural attachment to stuff and by a reluctance to leave projected and/or moving images uninterrupted. More often than not, the two tendencies reciprocated one another, with film, video and even still images presented as just one element of room-sized installations.

I’m going to put a stack of images together as some kind of John Berger-esque visual essay because I think they do a good job of speaking for themselves. The artists are, from top to bottom: Francesca Galeazzi, Paula Naughton (twice), Siobhan McAuley and Manuel Furtado dos Santos.

Francesca Galeazzi

Paula Naughton

Paula Naughton

Siobhan McAuley

Manuel Furtando dos Santos

The artists variously set out to ‘challenge common assumptions about the dynamics between physical and interior spaces, between tangible environments and ephemeral perceptions, between parallel worlds which at times are both real and imagined […]’ (Francesca Galeazzi), and to ‘create a conflict which plays on the friction between memory and reality, the perception between the past and the present, and the object and the photograph’ (Paula Naughton). The friction between the mediums is ostensibly the crux of the work, but as far as I can make out, the material’s status as artwork is never questioned, and in the context of the MA show this is the bit that interests me the most.

It seems to me that the imagined world of the artwork itself is under fire in these works, as their elements negotiate one another in a kind of struggle for supremacy, or at least an uneasy jostle for definition. There’s a dissatisfaction with the potential of either medium, so that video’s only good if it can spill into the room and the room’s only fit for purpose if there’s something unsettled about it – something that shifts spaces.

It’s a tentative kind of practice that interrupts itself – that intervenes even into the physical substance of itself – and I think this tendency to problematize the argument before it’s even quite in sight comes up a lot among the new generation of artists. We’re reluctant to define things or write manifestos or draw good thick lines, and there’s a lot of space for this kind of shuffling in the unsettled medium of the moving image – because we shouldn’t forget how new a medium it remains, and how much unexplored space there is at its edges.

Tamarin Norwood

2 Responses

  1. Further to what you say about the recent reluctance to write manifestos and draw lines: I see this as part of an interesting progression – from classic visual artists, who historically were never really asked to conceptualise their work, through the 20th century when the production of manifestos went into overdrive, to the uncertain now.. And I believe (or hope, or wish) that this is due to a realisation that here is one of the few areas of uncertainty avaiable to those who know nothing about quantum physics – but possessed of self-awareness of its own conceit that New-Age anti-science lacks.

    And that uncertainty is vital and fascinating.

    Hmm..

  2. An interesting progression, definitely, and one that maps neatly onto the classical-modernist-postmodernist triptych. In which case, if you read postmodernism as a broadly positive cultural constellation, contemporary artistic uncertainty may indeed be vital and fascinating; alternatively, if you cast postmodernism as the bad guy, it’s an abdication of real [political] responsibility in the face of a catastrophic eternal present. Interestingly, the latter position is taken both by ‘progressives’ and ‘reactionaries’, pitting, say, the self-proclaimed Stuckists against some radical left-wing manifesto-writing arts collective (that must exist somewhere, surely). Or, if you’d rather, pitting the Daily Mail, the Daily Express and the Sun against Badiou, Eagleton, Jameson and Zizek.

    For my part, I would certainly side with uncertainty against hubris. Reading the Futurists now, aside from their objectionable politics and misogyny, what’s most disturbing is their absurdly inflated sense of self-importance.

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