Uri Aran: Five Minutes Before

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Exhibition view of 'Five Minutes Before' at the South London Gallery

Photo: Andy Keate. Image courtesy the artist, mother’s tankstation, Dublin, Gavin Brown's enterprise, New York and Sadie Coles HQ, London

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Untitled, 2013

Photo: Andy Keate. Image courtesy the artist, mother’s tankstation, Dublin, Gavin Brown's enterprise, New York and Sadie Coles HQ, London

3/3
Untitled (Five Minutes Before), 2013

Photo: Andy Keate. Image courtesy the artist, mother’s tankstation, Dublin, Gavin Brown's enterprise, New York and Sadie Coles HQ, London

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It’s hard to know what Uri Aran’s art is about, exactly – which is partly the point. All you can say about the work of this New York-based Israeli artist, who spent last summer as artist in residence at South London Gallery, is that it deals with forms of culture. Not high culture or low culture specifically, just culture in general, as a sort of expression of what it means to be human. So, in the main video projection, there’s footage of a girls’ school ballet performance, some boys hanging out at a BMX park, and a strange animated sequence featuring passport photos, while a male interviewee intermittently reminisces about childhood and family, and what it means to grow up and become more culturally acclimatised. Throughout, the film frequently refers to its own making, its own status as a cultural construct, with the interviewee being fed lines by the off-screen artist or discussing how he’s going to sit for the camera.

This sense of self-referencing also extends to a smart sculptural piece consisting of a chaotically laden artist’s trolley and shelves. There are paints, photographs, and artist’s tools, bits of found, interesting junk, some doodly try-outs on paper – the materials of art-making, themselves made into a engrossing work of art. It’s a shame that Aran’s ‘finished’ work is less engaging. His mixed-media prints combine abstract colours, internet imagery and passport photos into a jittery, undefined mishmash – as if indecipherability were itself a kind of virtue.

Passport photos crop up again as a series of seven blown-up images. In amongst the anonymous mugshots are portraits of a horse and a dog – nods towards nature that, amid such self-aware artifacts of human culture, seem almost wistful.

Gabriel Coxhead

 

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Marc Rosenfeld

Five Minutes Before, is the first solo show for Uri Aran, a Jerusalem born New York based artist, who was given a residency at the South London Gallery, (SLG), over the summer of 2013 as part of the Outset Artist-Residence program. The residency includes the Outset Artist flat where for the two months Aran lived and created some of the new work seen in the exhibition. Aran is a newcomer to the art world, however in his short time has been featured in Frieze 2012, Kuntshalle Zurich 2013 and this year has been selected for the Whitney Biennial in New York. Aran works in a variety of media; sculpture, drawing, photography and video. His sculptural works appear at first sight very chaotic, a jumbled-up arrangement of 'stuff'. When entering the gallery the viewer is confronted with such a piece. It's titled, Five Minutes Before. Its a mixed media sculpture, at its core is a metal trolley with many objects positioned on the shelves. On the top shelf amongst a variety of 'nick-knacks' sit an electric drill stand together with an A4 passport photograph of a young boy. This photograph is the same as that found on the wall to the left of the trolley, its part of a series of seven photographs of huge dimensions. There is mirror who's top partially rests on the middle shelf of the trolley amongst objects positioned in a haphazard way. However what really dominates this show is a large back-projected video installation which is positioned directly opposite the entrance to the main gallery. It uses at least a quarter of the exhibition space. Does Aran want us to view this piece before anything else? Is it a clue to aid the audience in helping them with the narrative of the show? The video was shot partly in the gallery's flat where Aran can been seen and heard 'on-set' directing the main character of the film, Aran's friend. He sits there reading a script which is interspersed with archive film of girls ballet dancing in a hall and boys riding bikes in a park. Photos dance in hypnotic tandem to chamber music thats playing in the background. There are numerous drawings along one wall of the gallery, some that have been hand drawn, others digitally created. It apparent that the artist wants to be a story teller to his audience. His narratives appear to be concerned with childhood and belonging. Hence the series of photographs that have both human and animal subjects. Aran wants us to be all inclusive. What is clear is that these works were made knowing the exhibition space he would be using, they are site-specific and clearly work in their display. But the fact remains, that although there is a purposeful configuration and group-specific layout here, as well as there being an ethereal feel to this display. A definite meaning to what it all means still remains unclear, which is perhaps what the artist intended. Worth a visit to decipher for yourself what it is Uri Aran wants from his audience.