Old Texts


































































Ground Level - Hayward Touring Curatorial Open II - John Hansard Gallery - 29 June - 21 August 2010

Curated by Kit Hammonds, who won the Hayward Touring Open 2010, this show shares similarities with Port City (Arnolfini, 2007) and Dark Places (John Hansard Gallery, 2009). In a way, this exhibition contextualises the other two, in that it also develops and explores the influence of global communications on our lives and sense of locale. It is interesting though to consider the influence of regional curating and art practice on the cultural centre. The theme is one of mapping and cartography and their relationship to contemporary art.

Three of the artists in the show were also in Port City and here Maria Thereza Alves is represented by Seeds of Change (2005), and Heath Bunting and Kayle Brandon with Borderxing (2004).

This exhibition starts to approach issues of the digital age, but very subtly. Beginning with Christian-Philipp Muller's Green Border (1993) which reminded me of Beatrice da Costa's A Memorial for the Still Living (2009) in Dark Places in terms of its similarity to a museum exhibit. The digital photographs of nineteenth century drawings hinted at issues of reproducibility and boundaries, echoed in the text which was on perspex in three languages (German, English, Italian) and which describe his border crossings, "he sought out wooded border regions and here crossed national boundaries" [1]. Typically the text describes the difficulties encountered: "The next dangerous obstacle is a deep trench covered with fresh earth. Making no unnecessary noise we overcome this obstacle as well, and, though not without difficulty, we make it through the Hungarian forest to reach the small village once called Unterzeming." [2]

Heath Bunting and Kayle Brandon's Borderxing experience is similar, and the web-based presentation of the work echoes the connection between traversing borders in the EU and digital reproducibility, where there is no original image, reflecting this culture of dematerialisation. And yet the work similarly documents the 'performance' or 'execution' of a personal redefinition of territory, "without interruption from customs, immigration, or border police." [3] Humour and survival are part of the work, with typical voice-overs to the sequence of documentary images like "Non wild food, supermarket" and "person taking a picture of a person" [4]

This documentary style can also be found in Stephen Willats' works, Walk Walk (1993) (from a walk inside Puteaux House, East London) where images document floor levels, and for example, on the tenth floor: "The crash of glass as a milk bottle holder is put outside." [5], and audio captures the walk through the building: "door number 60, door number 59, ... number 24 brass knocker... " [6] In From the Top of Harvey House, Brentford Towers, West London (1986) detritus is mapped in relation to the site, viewed from above. For example, a plastic glove, a Hedex tablets packet, a 5p off ticket 'when you come back for more'.

This is the mapped detail of local realities which relates to Simon Evans' Island Time (2009) a risograph pamphlet, in which Evans has documented his thoughts that map experiences. For example: "Sun Related Events" are "memories of when you are young watching the sunrise" and "above the clouds in a plane on valium". [7] However, unlike Bunting and Brandon who gave away their pamphlet 'The Avon Canoe Pilot' at Port City these pamphlets aren't 'free' and instead are attached to a bench where you can sit down and read them.

Ricardo Basbaum maps local and global relationships in an oblique, yet complex style in Global Local (2010), new wall drawings which portray 'flows' within social mapping, on a micro and macro scale, identifying strong similarities between the two. This suggests that societies are changing both internally and externally in relationship to each other. This is in no small part due to networks.

The exhibition then becomes more like Dark Places in its concern with examples of mapping political and technological behaviours, although perhaps not as successfully, but with more concern about international politics.

In The Lesser Evil (2009), Eyal Weizman (an architect based between London and Palestine) portrays the court proceedings involved in the process of planning to build a wall on the Israeli-Palestinian border. "The route has become a dynamic chart plotting the forces around it." [8]

The Atlas Group's images from the Sweet Talk File, catalogue the changes of buildings in the Lebanon following the end of the civil war there. As the works may be semi-fictious, re-staging events, the works provide a different function to mass media images, journalism, or research. They function as a mapping based on change, but also the creative response to that change, creating images that are poetic more than they are documents.

Meanwhile, the Center for Land Use Interpretation, (CLUI), a research and education organisation, display images of The Hydraulic Models of the Army Corps of Engineers (2010). This is typically non-gallery material, which I found to be less engaging, although it is intriguing to know that such an organisation exists.

Yolande Harris' Taking Soundings (2008), and Navigating by Circles (2008) conveys a fascination with GPS. The two works are contrasted to one another; in Taking Soundings the images produced taken from satellite data of coastlines are, in effect, somewhere "between a musical score and a map." [9] In Navigating by Circles the nautical navigation technologies are portrayed, of film through a sextant accompanied by electronic sonifications from GPS.