On Becoming a Gallery: Part Three

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On Becoming a Gallery: Part Three

Angus-Hughes London 15 January to 6 February

A long time ago, Kurt Vonnegut wrote an essay about literary tastes among US college students entitled 'Why They Read Hesse'. A similar analysis could surely be undertaken for citizens of the art world, under the title 'Why They Read Deleuze'. Some thinkers, like Jean Baudrillard, enjoy a brief moment in the art world's sun; others, like Samuel Beckett, become perennials. Gilles Deleuze is proving to be one of the latter--surely because his theorising, which has proved applicable to political strategising as well as to art and music, anticipated cultural shifts that are still unfolding. On the evidence of this show, his name can also be invoked to add intellectual lustre to, say, the practical business of inaugurating a gallery.

Prior to its opening last October, this fledgling East End space invited the curators of Fieldgate Gallery--nomadic thinkers since their Whitechapel venue was lost to developers--to curate its opening trio of shows, collectively titled 'On Becoming a Gallery'. Following a solo by Ron Haselden and a double-header by Frances Richardson and Gary Colclough, the final part doubles up again--as if the exhibition were a repeatedly dividing cell--to feature four artistic practices: those of Aisling Hedgecock, Stewart Gough and Tom Ormond, Nooshin Farhid and Paul Eachus. 'There is no theme, no critical context, no text. It is about filling a space full of stuff over a three-exhibition period and giving it significance', state the curators in the handout. This feels both candid and questionable, given that two paragraphs earlier they had established a significance-giving critical context by mentioning Deleuze, glossing his notion of becoming--'not linear, but a simultaneous realisation of the constituent parts in the becoming of its nature. It is a perception not a process'--and going on to quote him. Maybe Deleuze's influence has become so pervasive as to go beyond being a specific critical context; maybe his thought, now, is simply the very air we breathe.

The works themselves speak to this processual temperament, locating us repeatedly in medias res amid admixtures of detail and ambiguity. Farhid's constellation of monitors, 16 Hours, 2008, features a transcribed dialogue recounting the evacuation of a burning building--operatives (firefighters?) reporting back to 'security command centre'; a computer-generated grid which morphs restlessly into new topographies of peaks and valleys; a changeable cloud of tiny lights, of ambiguous scale; and a perpetual aerial scanning over landscape, turning it smoothly synthetic. Surveillance, here, seems both a boon and an abstract threat. More of Farhid's monitors, again featuring security footage, infest Eachus's Trans Chaosmos Facility, 2009-10, a complexly articulated, walk-in polyhedron made from plywood and strung with a tangle of brightly coloured cable emerging ominously from plastic bottles sporting cardboard cuffs. This could be the hideout of a geometry-obsessed terrorist, a scientist's lair, or a bit of modular aesthetics: the import hangs pointedly unresolved, and one is aware that Farhid's interpolated films--of crumpled paper raining endlessly down a stairwell, of individuals and groups at a demonstration, faces caught in crosshairs--may be operating as red herrings. …