A Hayward Touring Exhibition
MARK WALLINGER’S THE RUSSIAN LINESMAN
Time and Relative Dimensions in Space, 2001
Stainless steel, MDF, electric light
281.5 x 135 x 135 cm
Courtesy Anthony Reynolds Gallery
© the artist 2008
THE HAYWARD GALLERY
18 February – 4 May 2009
A review by Marion Drew for EXTRA! EXTRA!
With his own work dealing so much with issues of boundaries and limits, not least his work State Britain which won him the Turner prize in 2007, Mark Wallinger is perhaps perfectly situated as an artist-curator to put together this fascinating, illuminating and witty exhibition. The subtitle for the show is frontiers, borders and thresholds, and in Wallinger’s hands these are explored in a variety of thought-provoking and engrossing ways.
Aernout Mik’s 2006 Raw Footage consisting of actual Reuters and ITN newsreel footage of the protracted war in Yugoslavia, and anonymous beautiful sepia photographs documenting the US/Canada border survey from 1860/61 are commentaries on literal geographical, geo-political, physical borders.
Psychological thresholds are tested in the show at every turn; how does one feel walking along a corridor that suddenly ascends the wall at a right angle in Monica Sosnowska’s 2006 Corridor; and why does the figure levering himself up on a missing arm in Dying Gaul feel so disturbing?
Wallinger has works that also play with sensory experiences of the viewer, forcing one to unpack and reassemble what one sees. Bruce Nauman’s 1969 video of himself revolving seems innocuous enough, except that it looks like he is doing it on the ceiling, the camera is upside down. Thomas Remand’s Poll 2001 looks like a photograph of the infamous Florida recount in Palm Beach County’s Emergency Operations Centre, until you realise that it is actually a photograph of a precise recreation in paper and cardboard.
The threshold between reality and illusion is explored in other ways too; Francis Oakes’ exquisite Single glass Klein bottle (1967) based on the concept of the moibus strip; 3D stereoscopic photographs of pictures of German soldiers under the 3rd Reich, Vija Celmins’s rock and perfect copy of the rock. There are three great oblong sheets of glass which are in reality empty spaces marked out by lengths of black yarn stretched taut, the minimalist sculptor Fred Sandback’s 1999 Untitled (three-part high-relief) which finds a strange echo in the video of an aerial view of the twin towers of the World Trade Centre with the tightrope used by Phillipe Petit on 7th August 1974. Just for good measure nearby is a Dürer print from Work on Measurement (1525) illustrating ‘perspective machines’ for drawing. One of the centre-pieces of the exhibition is Wallinger’s 2001 Tardis itself a commentary on thresholds of time and space, being made of silver which shimmers slightly in the way that things of illusion do.
Politically coded illusions are here too, such as the 1871 photograph of two generals being executed by a firing squad, which is actually a composite of images created in a studio from other photographs.
The element of trickery and playfulness is ever-present in this exhibition; Tacita Dean’s work about foley artists (1996) is an amusing insight into a now dying behind-the-scenes art, Wallinger’s own piece Double Still Life 2009 featuring two almost identical huge bowls of flowers, alludes to the threshold between the funereal and the celebratory.
The range and depth of the works that Wallinger has gathered are testament to the careful thought and meticulous research that must have gone into putting this show together over a period of 2 years, the considerable range of classical and contemporary works endlessly amuse, delight and absorb.
RENATO GIUSEPPE BERTELLI
Continuous Profile (Head of Mussolini) (1933)
© Renato Bertelli 2008
In this sense it is also an insight into the mind of an artist, a window into the creative process that is not strictly linear or ordered, but that makes strong and resonating links nonetheless; Renato Guiseppe Bertelli’s ‘profilo continua (testa di Mussolini) a disturbingly phallic 1933 official portrait in sculpture of Mussolini is placed next to a double-headed Roman hern; Edweard Muybridge’s 1887 frame by frame photographic study of a contortionist links to the dancer in Jerome Bel’s 2005 charmingly amusing Veronique Doisneau, in which the dancer tells of parts she hated dancing such as the chorus line in Swan Lake, because dancers are required to hold difficult poses for ridiculous lengths of time.
One’s absorption grows with every encounter through this show, and the crossing of boundaries and thresholds, ever more intriguing. One steps in and out and back again, caught up in visual mirrors, such as the shot-for-shot remakes of scenes from the East German State films in the 1940s and 1980s by Annie Siegel in Berlin Remake (2005), and other visual rhymes and rhythms that echo from space to space.
The final physical boundary is overstepped by the placing of Wallinger’s work Oxymoron, the union flag in the colours of the Irish Tricolour flying in Jubilee gardens just across from the gallery.
This is indeed a fascinating journey across artistic time periods, materials and genres and above all artistic ideas, which is presented with intelligence and humour that I imagine will greatly please even gallery-going ‘novices’.
William Blake, 1757-1827
C -Type Digital Photograph of life mask
84 X 59.4cm
Courtesy of the artist
© the artist 2008
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