| Reviews | Exhibitions |
mute authority, to palpably if ambiguously thrum. (See also the spectacular Circles, 2015, an aerodynamic hoop of ancient, twisted redwood, its circumference punctured by two white-painted steel tubes.) They ask if, having watched esoteric questing petrify into the soothing superficies of New Age, we’ve left a road untravelled.
The Zwirner show, while reprising some of Bove’s specialities, also curved in new directions. Self Talk, 2015, arranged four ‘crush glyphs’ – long rectangular steel tubes, bent into vaguely letterformlike shapes and painted green, yellow, black and red – on a white plinth. There’s a background babble of language in this work; almost alphabet-like, it also suggests modernist abstraction’s fluid evolution over time. This is part of Bove’s intent, it seems: to ask if one can ever approach art without an internal monologue (words for genres, types), ever have an unmediated and meditative experience. She suggests it is not easy, not habitual. Yet her accent on display broaches the possibility. Realise how much you are manipulated, her work suggests – recognise what are supposedly ‘natural’ conditions as conditioning – and you might just slip past them to touch something ancient and magnetic.
At the Henry Moore Institute, in a show previously presented at Museion, Bolzano, in Italy, Bove couples her works with those of Italian architect Carlo Scarpa. This makes sense, since Scarpa’s lusciously crafted, Japanese-influenced work, too, when emptied of whatever it contained, combines gracefulness with an emphasis on framing devices. Vitrine, 1956, an empty-looking vitrine in warm umber wood, supports two inert, black-framed lightboxes; the tall, brass-and-wood Easel, 1956, waits to be animated by an artwork. In the high-ceilinged central space Bove performs a temporal ingress, ‘reimagining’ Ambiente, Scarpa’s contribution for the 1968 Venice Biennale, and blurs the lines between past and present, her work and his (it is fitting that their forenames are anagrammatic). Among other things, a folding-screen arrangement of steel tubing – a sister work of Open Screen, 2014, at Zwirner – serves as an armature for a metal work by Scarpa, planed like a futurist javelin and angled downwards. It is unclear whose contribution was the brass egg perched precipitously upon it, and perhaps that is the point. Categories, here (artwork,
support, furniture, past, present) melt away.
Conversations with Jorge Luis Borges, 2003, a shelf of books in the back room of the institution, mixing experimental psychology with Herman Hesse, DT Suzuki and George Jackson’s Prison Letters, reinforces what one might already guess: that all of this points – has long pointed – towards more quest-like questions. Whether time is as linear as we think; whether our understanding of objects is just, as the Vedic tradition has it, illusion, Maya, and a result of our easily manipulated habit of thinking in categories; and how emptiness and fullness are inextricable. In Bove’s hands, then, art-theoretical ideas – the simultaneity of temporalities, the idea that we interpret objects through imposed concepts – start syncing with surprisingly parallel ones from Eastern philosophy that the fallout from the 1960s, the conservative reversal, have tarnished. In this sense, she cannily uses the reputable in the service of a possible rehabilitation, or at least a revisiting. Her sculptures may be all outward elegance and poise, but Bove recently published a text recommending self-help books including Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. That, need it be said, is the obverse of cool. It is, instead, open-minded and equivocal, and Bove’s art is, often thrillingly, just the same. z
MARTIN HERBERT is a writer based in Berlin.
Carol Bove foreground Coral Sculpture 2008 background Heraclitus 2014
Cally Spooner: Post-production Spike Island Bristol 18 April to 21 June
Let’s start at the beginning, or the end. In Spike Island’s blindingly white Gallery One, a television is set at an angle, at head height, atop a wheelie trolley hooked up with two headphones. Otherwise the room is spectacularly bare. On screen, titles are rolling and they keep rolling, to the accompaniment of polished multilayered ‘ooohs’. For credits of a film that doesn’t yet exist, this is oddly enthralling.
It is a bold move by young London-based artist Cally Spooner. Post-production is the final leg of And You Were Wonderful, On Stage, a musical two years in the making. Across the two years Spooner has mounted a series of shows that have presented different stages of the production process. Here, raw footage of the film is installed while out of sight Spooner and her team make their final edits and arrangements.
The next room, behind a thick black curtain, is twice the size of Gallery One and sometimes pitch black. This is the behindthe-scenes studio in which all the Post-production action – so startlingly absent in Gallery One – is unveiled. No longer a static, single-screen, complete viewing experience like Gallery One, here multiple large cinematic projections have you surrounded. Following the action on five screens at once calls for mobile participation as decisions must be made about where and when to focus or rove – the freewheeling swivel stools in the gallery help.
This is where the content of the film that is promised by the title reel, but yet to be made, comes together. Except that it doesn’t. Despite knowing that this footage is being performed and filmed in a single take, in one room, on six cameras, little about the room feels ‘together’. Once accustomed to the sudden lighting change, a gradual escalation of filmic tropes – cuts, multiple viewpoints, zooming, audio overlays, tracking – begins to unhinge as each screen follows (and loses track of) the cast, equipment and props.
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