The Long Avantgarde
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As cultural (and fiscal) borrowing reach extraordinary levels, in a world where Janis Joplin’s capitalism-critical song ‘Mercedes Benz’ can become the soundtrack to the car maufacturer’s ads, the contemporary terms for ‘alternative’ are hard to set. Artist/critic Dave Beech’s group exhibition about the survival of avant-garde art practices, against the odds, aptly describes the confusing intercontextual scene, but this determinedly scruffy amalgamation of films, objects and furniture garners little support for their future.
It’s not clear to what extent Beech has collaborated with the artists in this shipping-container gallery or, at points, whose work is whose, but the process and placement of matter appears to be about making viewer access and negotiation tricky. For why would one struggle through the many, barely audible acts of Beagle and Ramsey’s period soap opera on a dusty telly (in a retro furniture unit adorned with Pil and Galia’s fashion props)? Or squeeze into the gap separating Plastique Fantastique’s floor-bound monitor from the wall, while Cullinan and Richard’s offering is under plastic wraps on a plinth.
The prevalent conventions of the art encounter have certainly made visitors a cautious bunch but this framing of the radical, as a means of resistance, appears more in-joke than experimental. When several interesting works here use elaborate fictional and bitingly satirical narratives to lure or jump-start one into an ‘other’ position, why make our engagement with them an obstacle course?