Magazine article Art Monthly

Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard: Publicsfear

Magazine article Art Monthly

Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard: Publicsfear

Article excerpt

South London Gallery London 4 February to 18 March

When I was young, I used to trawl record shops for bootleg tapes of my favourite bands. The recordings I preferred, I soon realised, were the hoariest and murkiest: a decades-old live gig or covertly taped rehearsal glimmering through muffle and hiss. Something about straining to experience the thing made it feel excitingly real, even though the music sat at an impossible remove. Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard's File Under Sacred Music, 2003, is finely attuned to how time and degradation midwife such tenuous magic; it is also keen to deconstruct the process. A re-enactment of a legendary gig by The Cramps at the Napa State Mental Institute (footage of which, for comparison, is locatable on YouTube), the performance's documentation has been lovingly distressed to look like a bootleg videotape, complete with the sort of wobbles and static dropouts you get from an overplayed VHS. The performance itself is an assiduous mimicry--particular kudos for Poison Ivy's hairdo--but my favourite aspect of it is that the singer impersonating Lux Interior looks like Val Kilmer playing Jim Morrison in Oliver Stone's 1991 film The Doors. With that perhaps-accidental nod, the work sets up a hall of mirrors, all imperfectly reflecting the past. That's where we live now, and we can't find the exit.

This effect of watching a valorised spectre as it is forced to walk in the present--irrational excitement cut with depression, basically--repeats throughout 'Publicsfear', Forsyth & Pollard's eight-work, eight-year retrospective. Performer, Audience, Fuck Off, 2009, for instance, finds comedian Iain Lee reperforming Dan Graham's cherished Performer/Audience/Mirror, 1975, in which Graham appeared before an audience, described his appearance and attitudes and then the audience's, then turned to face a mirror (in which the audience saw themselves and him), and did it again. As Lee updates the work as observational comedy of a twitchy and intermittently cruel stripe, Graham feels both respected and distant. Again, the hall of mirrors: here on video is an audience seeing themselves, knowing they are mirroring the past; at the South London Gallery, meanwhile, one can turn away from the video to watch it reflected (and see oneself) in the polished steel letters spelling out PUBLICSFEAR, 2011.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

This is effectively art as self-reflexive cover version, a description that also fits Walking After Acconci (Redirected Approaches), 2006, and Walking After Acconci (Misdirected Reproaches), 2008, in which rappers Plan B and MissOddKidd update Vito Acconci performance videos for our Facebook-friendly age of emotional over-sharing, via splenetic verbal attacks on a 'you' that is both the viewer and their ex-partner. …

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