Meet Laarni, an image moderator from the Philippines. Her job is to sift through endless images on social media sites, filtering out anything inappropriate or – hey, this is the internet – downright horrifying. She’s seen here in a video piece, Skype-chatting with (we assume) British artist-provocateur Adam Chodzko. But Chodzko isn’t one for simplicity and Laarni, it turns out, is pure fiction.
Which is a shame, because a chat with an actual image moderator is a fantastic idea. We wade through an endless torrent of imagery on a daily basis, yet almost all of it has been moderated by someone, somewhere. Unseen figures ‘help’ us through the overwhelming task of dealing with the meaning and implication of pictures, deciding what we can and cant, should and shouldn’t see. On the wall, Chodzko has hung grainy found images of natural disasters and people asleep. With thoughts of image moderation running through your mind, and the horror of what moderators must see, you imagine the worst. Are those people really sleeping, or is something more sinister afoot?
Whatever is happening, it’s coming from your own mind. This gives rise to an uncomfortable, queasy feeling. But Chodzko takes a powerful idea about image proliferation, editing and censorship and undermines it with obfuscation and complexity. A wicker sculpture sits in the middle of the room. Circus posters cover the windows; an image projected behind them is tantalisingly out of sight. So much conceptual shadowplay is frustrating, because this show is close to being brilliant.