, Albert Dock
18th September – 28th November 2010
This exhibition offers a varied, multimedia experience through art from
several cultures. It’s a challenge on several levels.
“Who can afford the time, attention, energy to be touched? To be
touched it is necessary to be bold, to be vulnerable.” (Lewis Biggs,
Artistic Director, Liverpool Biennial.)
Some works of art are so tactile you have a job not to rub your fingers
into them: Chaim Soutine, Anselm Keifer, Willem de Kooning… but
the convention is to touch with the eyes only. Otto Muehl’s paintings
in this exhibition look as if the paint is still malleable and their thick
textured quality makes the technique arguably more significant than the
The exhibition at the Tate is tantalising in that way. Magdalena Abakanowicz’s
installation Embryology (above) just invites interference! Large bulky
packages of earthy stuff tempt you to touch and rummage and lounge amongst
them. But you mustn’t. The child in you who made mud pies and sand
castles and sifted pebbles wants to but you mustn’t.
OK, you shrug, what’s next?
Jamie Isenstein’s installation with lights is imbued with a peacefulness
that is challenged by something rather macabre: there is a realistic hand
at the end of a “fire-hose” which turns out to be a real hand.
That’s not the macabre thing, though. The artist, whose hand it
is, and who can hear all the reactions, originally gave permission for
people to touch. But this had to be withdrawn because some people abused
the opportunity. It’s still interesting to experience the desire
to hold the hand and what a shock it must have been for those who presumed
the hand was a facsimile. A note-worthy interaction even without the touching.
What else? Nina Canell’s work with invisible energies is elegant
and visual as well as conceptual. I particularly appreciated the sense
of aftermath and potential in the grinding stone and its residual seeds:
the absence of sound and energy balanced by the concentrated energy in
the seeds. The presentation of the first and last page of Holst’s
Neptune invites a varied response. The musical hieroglyphs have a shape
and energy of their own irrespective of their representational role as
the visual equivalent of potential sound. And what of the absence of the
rest of the musical notation? In another exhibit, water from varying depths
of the Mersey is displayed in parallel containers - when it would normally
have been contiguous - and in turn becomes the medium for changing light
levels. It will itself change as the result of this exposure. The ideas
awoken by these installations resonate beyond the moment of perception.
The surrealistic work of Diango Hernandez addresses the notion of deconstruction
and witty reconstruction. Is this a Victorian tiled floor or the structure
of something microscopic? Where does this stairway of chair-backs lead?
Alfredo and Isabel Aquilizan’s schools project also produces a sense
of the surreal. Nautical shapes in cardboard are attached to cardboard
boxes. There are exhausting amounts of brown sticky tape and you can mentally
hear the tearing sounds of young endeavour, and there is a feeling of
immensity all unified by a creaking boardwalk and made mysterious by dim
lighting which creates shadows. And through the windows, rendered small
by distance are the real vessels which inspired this installation.
Eva Kotatkova also looks at scale and relates it to childhood and memory,
incorporating video and audio components and producing an interactive
experience. It’s tempting to rearrange the miniature furniture.
Wannes Goetschalckx, on the other hand, emphasises the closed-off nature
of human experience. A series of video screens show the artist engaged
in various solitary activities: eating, drinking, underwater, counting,
on a swing, crouching, shelling peas, defaecating and masturbating. A
Northern comedian said that every morning when he woke up he pushed out
his elbows and if they did not touch wood he knew he was still alive.
Goetschalckx’s claustrophobic enclosure of wooden boxes reminds
me of this moment of comedic black humour and it’s a good place
for the exhibition to end.