Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Double Vision

Double Vision is the title of the current exhibition at the Exchange Gallery, Penzance. It is the result of nine collaborations that have been developed by NSA (Newlyn Society of Artists) members with other professional artists and non-artists alike. The artists have risen to the challenge to expand their current practice in a year long collaborative process with musicians, surfers, academics, Touchgloves kick boxing club and Cornwall Libraries' Art Collection.
John Keys and composer Graham Fitkin's have produced an audio visual installation that turns the ramp into an all encompassing passage of sound and light. Tidal 28 (above) is based on the tidal rhythms and sounds of a shifting sand bar. Audio samples from the sandbar and notation of aural data produced a 28 minute musical work that compliments the sequential drawings of the tideline made on 28 days. Both artists are concerned with notions of passing time and the significance of boundaries which are eloquently voiced in the work presented.
Bren Unwin and anthropologist Dr Helen Cornish used their collaboration to explore the role of arts practice within an academic framework. Their contribution to the exhibition is in the form of both video and print. Chiasm: Miners' Cage 2nd State (above) is a triptych of superbly textured etchings that took on a film reel-like quality hung next to the accompanying video projections. Cage/Metal evokes the blur of rock wall and track lighting that would have been seen from a speedily descending/ascending miners cage and would have been quite disorienting on a larger scale. Cage/Water was beautiful but would have been more powerful in an enclosed, darkened, space where the rushing, bubbling, water could have echoed and become all encompassing.
The Operators by Alessandra Ausenda and musician Ruth Wall was, for me, the highlight of the show. I was lucky enough to encounter this piece alone in a silent gallery, as the initial ethereal beauty of the dress slowly revealed itself to have a deeper, darker, content so the soundtrack started, quietly at first but building to an almost menacing climax. The work explores the exploitative working conditions within the fashion industry and violence that is often associated with it. On closer inspection the golden 'swags' around the hem turn out to be knives and the 'floral' decorations composed of hand-guns not petals. Almost hidden within the cage that supports the skirt are three industrial sewing machines referencing the cramped conditions often prevailing in the unregulated sweat-shops that supply the fashion industry. The entire soundtrack is composed from the sounds of sewing machines, from the soft rhythmic clicking of a single needle slowly piercing fabric through to the insistent menace of multiple machine motors running at full speed, it is an unexpectedly subtle piece.

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