Innocence and despair

29 September - 3 October 2007

Holly Davey, Nantes Subway #2 (2007)
Holly Davey, Nantes Subway #2 (2007)

The inspiration for this show has come from the Claire Denis film Trouble Every Day, and soundtrack of the same name by Tindersticks; the album Sharpen Your Teeth by Ugly Casanova, the one-off side project of Modest Mouse’s Isaac Brock; and Low’s boxset, A Lifetime of Temporary Relief. The title comes from the Langley Schools Music Project album.

Holly Davey’s work centres on photographic improvised performances. Her audience is the camera; the subject, herself and the space she occupies. The images are taken using the camera’s self-timer, the pace of the performance set by the pose taken and movement to and fro from the camera. The locations Davey performs within are regular, ordinary places, however her actions seem extraordinary, otherworldly even. She takes on characters that seem awkward, disconnected from reality, and stricken in some way. There is a continual conflict between public and private in the work and the process by which it is produced, and Davey looks almost hidden in full view. Her photos find her caught mid act, mid pose, expecting, but ill at ease.

The wavering line between fact and fiction, humour and horror in Marko Mäetamm’s work unsettles us. His recent body of work is based in the very real circumstance of his struggle to survive as an artist and family member. The narratives in his short films are distorted to the extreme and almost hellish, if side-split with a murky sense of fun. Violence pervades much of the work. However, such is the dark, childlike humour with which it is tackled that we feel pity for him in his desperate situation. These intimate, catastrophic and fearful thoughts laid bare also instil feelings of horrendous voyeurism. We become party to private horrors, hidden bloody stories borne of frustration, fantastical imagining of ‘a way out’, a drastic solution, and the horror lures us in. Mäetamm’s paintings imply similar stories of other places, situations, families, homes, where just such imagined violence has also taken place.

Gaia Persico makes observational animations from hotel room windows. Her cityscapes are snapshots of urban infrastructure and sprawl. They are concise, simple scenes: shapes and outlines of buildings, roads, TV aerials, stairways, and vents populate the images; human presence is implied rather than seen. Persico’s animations bring voyeuristic drama to these metropolitan stages through insignificant actions: a door opens, shadows play over a floor, a lift speeds up a building, lights within rooms flick off, then on again. Long intervals of stillness are punctuated by these small actions. We are prompted to fill in the gaps, a desire to know the unknown, but only the same repeated movement plays out. Persico’s loneliness in her hotel world is reflected through this lack of ability to connect with what lies beyond her window. Her response to a place is disorientating. We watch with her, held captivated between a non-event and the expectation that we will be shown otherwise.

‘Innocence and Despair’ is built on feelings of isolation, disconnection, frustration and helplessness; the cruel inescapable sense of daily revolving repetition; and the desperate fear that ours is an uncertain, incomplete view, a skewed gaze not shared by any other. Any diversion from such lonely existence is through fantasy and invention. This often requires a different way of seeing, one of brutality, selfishness, even perhaps a return to a time when we were less expectant, focused on survival, and needed to express more physical exertion to feel our existence within a place. We readily betray our innocence in such ventures however; our attempts at forging for ourselves something we half-hoped would eventually consume us, make for only private, and fleeting relief.

About the curator:
Rob Lowe is a practising artist and also currently works as a project manager for Safle. He went to university at Lancaster, Birmingham and Leicester, and spent several apprentice years learning the gallery exhibition ropes at Crescent Arts, an artist-run space in Scarborough. He has worked as Exhibitions Officer at Oriel Davies Gallery, Newtown, and Visual Arts Assistant at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff.

This show was curated by
  • Robert Lowe
    • Holly Davey, Nantes Subway #2 (2007)
    • Holly Davey, Fairoak Road Number 13 (2007)
    • Gaia Persico, Chicago (from World Animations series)
    • Marko Mäetamm, still from Family
    • Marko Mäetamm, still from Family
    • Marko Mäetamm, Bleeding House