Magazine article Art Monthly

Andrew Cross

Magazine article Art Monthly

Andrew Cross

Article excerpt

Andrew Cross

Ikon Eastside Birmingham July 1 to 25

The Solo, 2010, a film collaboration between Andrew Cross and Carl Palmer--the drummer from the rock group Emerson, Lake and Palmer--transforms an unassuming landscape into the spatial re-enactment of music as pop idyll.

Previous photographic work by Andrew Cross includes rolling chalk downs and banal truck-stops that trace British and American landscapes that are both bucolic and post-industrial. This exhibition is introduced by a wall of photographs, taken from dawn to dusk, of the site of the Knebworth 1970 pop festival. Blue sky with a backdrop of woods: the field undulates forming a dip, presumably the location of a stage. This landscape today is empty, yet something occurred here, recalling Eric Motram's essay, 'Dionysus in America', in which he describes the electric, rock and roll, orgiastic frenzy that gives a site such as this its enigmatic and mythic presence.

The exhibition starts in total darkness. The film begins with an image of Palmer, full figure, playing a single drum. On an adjacent, large-scale screen, a close-up of the detailed drumming and footwork can be seen. Four speakers, one in each corner, periodically emit percussion sounds, making musical patterns that traverse the room. The spatial effect of sound is experienced as a powerful and physical environment surrounding the viewer. Yet at times this feels staged and synthetic. Characteristic of Cross's work, the build-up of intense expectation is followed by a feeling of absence. This is particularly noticeable when the percussion is halted with abrupt silences.

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Five drum pieces have been collaboratively developed and filmed from various viewpoints. The piece titled Brushes, for example, is filmed in bird's-eye view. Ostinato shows only Palmer's torso and feet as military-style drumming evokes the space of a Kieferesque landscape. Cross describes this musical piece as emotionally close to the landscape where he grew up: Salisbury plain with its armoured tanks and heavy military presence. Cymbals consists of a shot of the shiny brass undersides of ringing cymbals. Visually they form a continuous horizontal streak reminiscent of Turner's golden sunsets. Again, Palmer's head is edited from view.

The image of Palmer drumming at full tilt is neither quixotic nor absurd. A paradoxical image that is apparently straightforward, its complexity can be alluded to by the term 'post-human, techno-sublime'. …

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