Let Us Take You There

Paul Rooney and Susan Philipsz
The exhibition runs until 22 May

Review by Colin Serjent

What strikes me most about this exhibition at the Bluecoat Arts Centre is how little artwork there actually is on display.

Liverpool-based Paul Rooney is a gifted artist, utilising various media, but a newcomer to his work would be hard pressed to acknowledge this - there are so few examples of his output in what can be described as an understated promotion of his talents.

There is a video, which he produced, of a bridge spanning a river in Rome, and a constant traffic of people crossing it. This is accompanied by the guitar-driven track Voices Outside (taken from the Rooney album On Fading Out), and the lyrics of the song are superimposed onto the video. I liked this a lot.

I was not so enthralled by his newest work Something Happening: After The Human League, which is a film of the view from the Bradford and Bingley Building Society in the centre of Sheffield, where a lone female singer sings an unaccompanied song based on The Sound of The Crowd by the Human League. The window in the film is where the entrance to The Crazy Daisy club used to be, the spot where Jo and Susanne met and teamed up with Phil Oakey. Sorry, I can't see the point of this - it's boring.

Of more interest is Let Me Take You There, an audio guide that Rooney believes should be listened to while standing in a field in Calderdale, Yorkshire! "The route you are taken on is not a geographical one, but is instead a journey through time, pop mythology, notably Joy Division and Ian Curtis, and cultural memory" he said.

The boredom factor comes into play again with the film Returning, made by Susan Philipsz. It consists of a single shot which depicts a scene in a Berlin park where a number of passers-by read the inscription on a monument to a revolutionary uprising. The monument marks the spot where socialist leader Karl Liebnecht was murdered. The word pretentious, with a capital p, comes to mind in regard to this film. Accompanying Returning is the theme music, played by Philipsz on the piano, from the film Don't Look Now. The music is impressive, but ultimately fails to add any resonance to the film.

Overall, a disappointing exhibition, and particulary in regard to Rooney, an opportunity wasted to more effectively showcase his broad range of artistic skills.