Goldsmiths Curatorial Critique

Rivane Neuenschwander at South London Gallery

Posted in Reviews by va801km on December 9, 2008

rneuenschwander_inventoryofsmalldeathsblow

The barn-like space of the SLG appears to be undergoing some kind of conversion; eight open-sided cubicles support a new mezzanine floor, all sturdy raw timber. The gloom suggests the place is deserted, but a sound disrupts the image: a magnified drip, metallic and echoing, followed by more of different tones, shifting and pausing.

The sound envelopes you as you move into the space, but all seems dry and still. Close your eyes and you are in a cavern, or a high ceilinged bathroom with a metal tub. On your right is the first of two projections, an undulating droplet on a continuous journey through a landscape fringed with palm trees buffeted by a wind to which the bubble seems impervious. The whole set-up creates several disjunctures; the bubble in the film looks like a drop that never falls, at odds with the sounds, and the landscape of the film is incongruous in the conspicuously constructed environment. A 16mm film projection clicks into life with a rapid whir; a hole burrows its way through all the blank black frames, like the bubble in the first film become an animation of emptiness suggesting a viewfinder, or the view through an unfocused microscope.

A bare light bulb shows a microphone in the ceiling. Above it upstairs you find the ostensible cause of the sound – a large aluminium bowl set into the floorboards catches occasional drips from an unseen source in the roof space. The drips fall too infrequently to tally with the sounds, but they trigger them. There is also a pile of fine sawdust on the floor and a horizontal row of large evenly-spaced drill holes all the way round the wall at shoulder height, revealing layers of plaster and brick. The holes continue on and through two mysterious round moulded shapes in the surface of the wall, perhaps blocked-in windows, bisecting them.

There are many visual as well as audible echoes: drip-bubble-bulb-hole-bowl; trees-timber-dust. It looks like a space still in construction, but this is belied by the completeness and mathematical perfection. The recurring roundnesses suggest framing and containment versus intrusion and revelation, the absent (or empty) object of contemplation. Borrowing from the language of minimalism, the space is yet experiential and strange. The bubble is a fragile separateness carrying a different air within its membrane, and in the same way the viewer is enclosed within a different space, both cool and logical, even banal, and otherworldly in its logic. The suspension point of the title may refer to the mezzanine (which bisects the space along its picture rail) but it replicates and mirrors itself on physical and psychological levels.

This is reinforced by the flip-clock which you may or may not notice on your way out: other than November 08, it shows all zeros, which duly flip round. You have visited the show for no hours and no minutes, on no particular day – a time out of time.

Rivane Neuenschwander: Suspension Point

South London Gallery

2 October – 30 November

www.southlondongallery.org

Image: still from ‘Inventory of small deaths’, Rivane Neuenschwander, taken from SLG website.

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