Goldsmiths Curatorial Critique

The World is Turning

Posted in Reviews by mingjiuntsai on October 15, 2008

The mechanical yet organic sculpture with photos of flowers on the wall in the hallway seems to indicate that Matthew McCaslin’s solo exhibition – The World is Turning – combines both artificial and natural elements.

Three white ceiling fans, hung only few inches from the floor, is the first work that the audience encounters in the space. The fans keep turning; the audience hardly feel the circulating wind from them, but instead sense the fans as flowers’ last fight for life before death. Beyond this installation, there is a board with an image of sky standing with four wheels on the floor, and a pile of sand gathered on the middle of the board. The small sculpture seems attempting to construct the concept of the earth by using sand, sky and rolling wheels. Though it’s hard to tell if this point of view is too simplifying, or the work itself is too simple. Looking up, here comes the most impressive work on the wall. Five screens are set on the wall, and wires casually connect the screens to form the shape of a flower. Each video shows endless cycles of blooming colourful flowers. These images, which are played in a smooth and accelerated pace, generate an amazing energy of natural life. Furthermore, these splendidly colourful flowers create an ambiguous beauty between the artificial and the natural. These eternally attractive visions lead the audience into a tremendous visual enjoyment.

Turning right to face the wall on the other side, there is a screen showing an image of the sunset and several white candles in front of the screen. The sunset seems in a state of permanent pause, and the fluctuant reflection of the sunset on the ocean is the only clue for the viewers to know the video is running. This equivocal stillness of the image also has an attraction for the viewers who have just been charmed by the vividly stunning visions. Moving to the last work, it is also a video played on a screen that is installed very close to the floor on another wall. The video records cows under black light, which creates a mysterious phenomenon of spy. This artificially tense sense generates an interesting contradiction toward the easy movement of the cows.

Matthew McCaslin literally produces quite impressive works that correspond to the title of the exhibition. Overall, there is a very energetic rhythm throughout the exhibition, and it both exists within the visual experience and sensational experience. In the main exhibition site, the audience’s eye contact with works moves from low (the work with fans) to high (screens with flowers and sunset on the wall) and go back to low (the work with cows). This visual experience seems like the orbit of the earth. Moreover, the works have a variation between activity and stillness, which describes the natural movements in the world that contains various systems. However, the most impressive part is how successfully uses technology to create and produce the work with the concept of life and living of the world in this exhibition. The argument about the mechanical engagement in the aesthetic has long been discussed from Benjamin to Ranciere. What Matthew McCaslin produces in this exhibition is neither taking the mechanical technology as the statement of the work, nor uses it merely as a method or tool to complete the work. He makes the technique literally become one part of the aesthetic concept within these works visually and technically inseparable. The way these works exploring the significant natural beauty and ideas gives the audience an aspect to appreciate the concept of the exhibition by simply visual pleasure.


Matthew McCaslin

The World is Turning

5th/ Sep- 12th/ Oct/ 2008

Fred [London]



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