Magazine article Art Monthly

Silvia Bachli/Eric Hattan: What about Sunday?

Magazine article Art Monthly

Silvia Bachli/Eric Hattan: What about Sunday?

Article excerpt

MK Gallery Milton Keynes 18 January to 31 March

There is a well-known scene from Sam Mendes's American Beauty, 1999, where Ricky Fitts, the young man next door, shows his video of a plastic bag eddying around in the wind to the unhappy daughter of the main protagonist. In the film, seeing beauty in the ordinary, for which 'the plastic bag scene' is the crucial plot device, is played out against the mundane nature of human crises. Visual parallels with Eric Hattan's video of plastic bags chasing each other in a spiral are obvious, but Silvia Bachli and Hattan's collaborative exhibition takes ideas of the beauty in ordinariness in a far different direction to Mendes's film. Hattan made this video about a year before American Beauty reached European audiences and he points out that beyond synchronicity his work is simply recording a common occurrence, whereas the scene in the film, according to internet accounts, involved careful construction, using artificial air blowers and studio lights.

What is most immediately apparent in 'What about Sunday?' is that underlying Hattan's video and sculpture and Bachli's understated, almost abstract drawing is a commitment to considering marginal material things and spaces, deliberately chosen for their lack of status. How we look at the results of their visual experimentation is then carefully mediated through a highly structured use of the exhibition space as a specific location for attention in which both artists have unequivocal belief. Even the audio work Hattan made of various voices doing Tarzan cries, which plays outside the gallery, consists of the recorded voices of three senior figures from a French art museum (the directeur, conservateur and commissaire) acting out of character but still attached to 'the gallery'.

Mendes's film gives glimpses of transcendence in ordinariness but expressed through self-consciously theatrical plot devices. The initial parallel with Bachli and Hattan's celebration of the mundane breaks down at this point. Their shared sensibility seems focused on things other than the human body, qualities that merge to form an evanescent and subtly sensual reframing of the exterior world. The exhibition space is the public realm which best generates the attentiveness this work demands; the art within exists for itself and for its audience, needing no introductory narrative. Within such a precise formal sense of how things might be placed in an exhibition space, individual drawings, videos and photographs lead, tangentially, towards different kinds of speculation: street lamps become the moon and flower heads (possibly dandelion seed heads on a giant scale) become street lamps, while Hattan's multiple video projections on walls, which vary in height and focal intensity, have a clear equivalence to Bachli's evanescent watercolour images. …

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