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Damien Roach: ‘Schema’

Art Seventeen , Haggerston Until Saturday November 6 2021 Free
4 out of 5 stars
Damien Roach at Seventeen. Photo by Damian Griffiths
Damien Roach at Seventeen. Photo by Damian Griffiths

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Found the last year and a half confusing? Damien Roach’s too-clever-by-half show will have you scratching your head all over again

From the walls, suns blaze across a travel-agent-ready sea. A plinth of gold Caffeine-Free Diet Coke cans supports some fake sushi. In another room, there’s a second huge block made of thousands and thousands of Lego bricks. It’s called ‘Noise’, like electronic rubbish has crystalised into matter: a toy that has become massively lumpen and unplayable. Damien Roach’s new show is packed with tensions between the digital and the physical. For every super-sophisticated bit of hacked machine learning intriguingly recreating a seventeenth-century masterpiece (out of… what? Pictures of meat, people, furniture? I don’t know) there’s a dangly thing that looks like a big chicken’s head made from a foam hand and a busted cymbal.

Maybe Roach is suggesting that all information, all sequences, now have equal value, or no value. There’s a flag sticking out of the wall next to a floor fan. The fan wasn’t turned on when I arrived, which I assumed was the point. Later on, it was, so the flag flapped around. It wasn’t any better, or worse. There’s a 4x4 grid of Beatles ‘White Album’ covers on the wall. Some are the famous numbered ‘top loaders’. Others aren’t. None of them is worth anything now they’re separated from the discs, posters and anal record-collectorism. It’s hardly Ai Weiwei smashing that 2,000-year-old vase. It’s funnier for a start – the debasement/elevation of the mass-cultural archaeology of the recent(ish) past.     

If you can avoid tripping over the tailgates of Ford Fiestas and Colt Lancers on the floor, this is a highly entertaining show, even if you don’t necessarily know what’s going on when an animated face recites an Emily Dickinson poem it has ‘written’. But we live in an age when, for all the digital crap that invades our eyes and ears every nanosecond, there is an ever-increased preciousness and proscriptiveness about the importance of this stuff: culture being mined like Bitcoin. In the era of non-fungible-tokenism, there’s something weirdly satisfying about a playing card glued face-first to a wall. I mean, why not?


Venue name: Seventeen
Venue website:
Venue phone: 020 7249 8713
Address: 270-276 Kingsland Rd
E8 4DG
Transport: Haggerston Overground
Price: Free

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