When it comes to current events, everyone nowadays is expected to share their experience or opinion. The problem, as you soon discover in this show of art-meets-journalism, is that not everyone’s viewpoint is equally interesting. Specifically, Koki Tanaka’s films of witnesses to 2011’s London riots and his restagings of their journeys that day feel a bit humdrum and aimless: if you weren’t glued to your TV at the time, then these testimonies won’t be enough to pique your interest; but if you’ve already overdosed on media coverage, then the narratives feel too familiar.
You find similar difficulties with other works in the show – that their observations aren’t quite acute enough, or that the information they offer feels slightly indiscriminate. Paulo Nazareth’s huge collection of ephemera from his ongoing, five-year walk across Africa contains some genuinely fascinating things – bits of folk art, homemade children’s toys, political flyers – but also too much that feels whimsical, such as half-used bars of soap. And as for Edson Chagas’s fly poster photographs of junked objects from around London, and Rossella Biscotti’s minimalist floor sculpture made from recycled nuclear material, you sense they’re both addressing interesting issues to do with how society tackles waste and disposal, but not quite taking the analysis far enough.
Still, there’s one really successful piece: Cyprien Gaillard’s ‘Artefacts’, where footage shot in and around Baghdad on an iPhone has been transferred to scratchy 35mm film. Although at first the images appear random – Babylonian museum artefacts, crumbling Ottoman palaces, modern, sci-fi looking edifices – you gradually sink into an awareness of time’s ruinations and the transience of cultural epochs: just the sort of subtle, eternal truths that art conveys far better than reportage. Even when it’s accompanied by a maddening loop of David Gray singing ‘Babylon’.