Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Art Hephzibah Anderson

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Art Hephzibah Anderson

Article excerpt


Beck's Futures

ICA The Mall, SW1 (020-7930 3647) Until Sun 18 May

The coverage of this year's Beck's Futures has tended to focus on what is not on show - most notably Carey Young's 'Nondisclosure (Assisted Press Release)', but also the numerous performances and other works that exist outside the gallery - but the exhibition nonetheless features plenty of what we've come to expect from a contemporary art exhibition.

You'll find vandalism and graffiti, TV monitors and a spot of bloody self-mutilation. It strikes poses against corporatism, the cult of celebrity and other targets readymade for T-shirt sloganeering, and the usual hotchpotch of 'isms' is spiced up by dollops of undiluted anthropology and sociology.

And yet it fails to convince.

In the main space is a bitty, incoherent sprawl of hardware and soft furnishings, talking heads and bric-a-brac. The first exhibit is Francis Upritchard's 'Save Yourself', for which a portion of the ICA's floorboards have been torn up. Lying in the sawdust is a mummy (think Hammer Horror rather than pyramids) with a single, unseeing eye and a box of B&H (empty) tucked into its bandages. The mummy is surrounded by customised urns and, thanks to being plugged into the ceiling, emits a long, low, distinctly hungover-sounding moan. It probably has something to do with death, or perhaps the long white electrical cable is an umbilical cord (then again, perhaps it is just a long white electrical cable), but there is more comedy and pathos here than you'll find elsewhere in the show.

This is the fourth Beck's Futures prize, and as befits its toddler years, the gallery has been transformed into a series of 'activity corners' in which the viewer must look and read, listen, or read some more. It is rarely permissible to simply look (probably just as well, since there is precious little by way of visual stimulation) and the selected artists demand an obedient interaction of the viewer that is at odds with their own posturing anarchism. …

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