Howlin’ Wolf

Mark Lewis
FACT Centre, Wood Street
31st March – 28th May 2006

Reviewed by Adam Ford

‘This is a shameful waste of time and exhibition space. IT’S NOT TOO LATE – TURN AWAY NOW!!!!!!’

That’s what I wrote in the comments book outside Gallery 1.

It’s no fun sticking the knife into a FACT exhibition. I feel almost guilty doing it, since I’ve spent so many wonderful hours in that building when enjoying the best in what might be described as ‘alternative’ cinema. But the ‘fact’ remains that their exhibitions are generally dreadful, and only of interest to a tiny group of posers with fashionable haircuts.

Howlin’ Wolf is nothing to do with the blues singer, but then it it’s nothing to do with anything or anyone. The programme may boast of a ‘world première’, but I don’t think people will be jetting in from around the world to examine this facile, emotionally empty drivel.

The ‘première’ is of two pieces commissioned by FACT especially for this exhibition. We’re so lucky. ‘Rear Projection (Molly Parker)’ is a ‘portrait’ of an actress who you’re meant to kind of recognise from somewhere as she just stands there, arms folded across her chest in a ‘neutral’ look. This is supposed to be like how women were painted back in the day. She is projected over ever so slowly moving scenes of a gas station and an abandoned restaurant. Gripping stuff. ‘Rear Projection (Golden Rod) is quite picturesque at least, but it’s basically the same as it’s near namesake minus Molly Parker and plus an Ontario landscape. ‘Northumberland’ sees a camera track across a stone wall. The trees and horizon seem to be moving at a different speed to the wall, but (as will surprise any sighted person who has ever walked) they are not! It is the camera that is moving, and different things are different distances from the camera! Who’d of thunk it?

Upstairs in Gallery 2, things get more interesting, but only about 1% more interesting. In ‘Churchyard Row’, the camera gradually journeys around a tree on a London street corner. Two men lean against a building. A dog gazes disinterestedly about itself. According to the blurb, viewers ‘find themselves poised, waiting for something to happen’. Well don’t wait too long will you? The exhibition is only on for two months. In ‘Lawson Estate’, we are treated to the silhouettes of two guys taking a leak. Yeah, you read that right. And ‘Jay’s Garden, Malibu’ was presumably just an excuse for Lewis to wander about a tropical paradise with a bunch of porn stars and some grapes.

I kept looking round nervously. Was this some kind of incredibly ironic joke? Maybe, but it was the sighing of gallerygoers rather than laughter that greeted my ears.

Curator Karen Allen claims that Lewis ‘…weaves connections between the history of art and film’. Well the world is still spinning on its axis, and posers are still disappearing up their own rear projections.

Printer friendly page