Castlefield Gallery’s annual Head to Head sees Vasilis Asimakopoulos and Christian Falsnaes go head to head to explore ideas of the nature of participation and social rituals. Both are radically different in their approach with Vasilis inviting the viewer to share in a gig performance, whilst Christian is more interested in the performance’s creation and the viewers participation rather than the performance itself.
Asimakopoulos begins the conversation by exploring the sub culture of heavy metal and its rituals and codes that are akin to primitive cultures, in which dress and performance unites a certain group. For this exhibition he has transformed Castlefield into a concert like space using his film Norweigian Concrete that features the heavy metal drummer Thomas Vallely, who plays along via headphones to De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas (1994) an album by Norwegian black metal band Mayhem, within a stone quarry. Accompanying this are Asimakopoulos’ sculptures of marble resin denim jackets that are constructed to hold beer bottles, completing the feel of a gig atmosphere. In the upstairs of the gallery a resin of a mosh pit hangs on the wall, juxtaposing the fragility of the material against the brutal quality of a mosh pit. The genre itself achieves self-identification within association of being a part of a group and in its destructive nature is also able to create something at the same time in a ruin and rebirth analogy. This is echoed in his material choice of resin and marble dust, a nod to the Greek ancient sculpture whilst also making a more abstract link to the landscape of salt pits and stone quarries that feature within the film, with Castlefield’s concrete and white space reflecting this aesthetic making the location ideal to display the work.
Falsnaes takes a different approach to performance in his work First in which the first visitor for that day is faced with creating the exhibition content. It developed from Falsnaes’ interest into exhibition format and an exploration into how to make exhibitions relevant for viewers. The first visitor is guided through a script to produce a film that is played for subsequent visitors before being deleted at the end of the day, thus it is very much connected to a particular day’s situations. The piece therefore allows development and has a natural organic structure as it is very much about the persons individual reactions rather than the performance itself; creating an intimate relationship between art and viewer by connecting them through a shared sense of experience, due to the nature of the work.
It is this sense of a shared experience both artists seek to create, with Asimakopoulos allowing the viewer a shared experience of a heavy metal gig and allowing them to be part of this group for a time. Falsnaes meanwhile rather than a shared group experience focuses on the individual and how through them we have a collective experience, influenced by us identifying with the chosen person and their situation. What is also interesting about the combined exhibitions is both artists explore the idea of societal codes, with one looking at the unwritten rituals within the heavy metal culture; whilst the other focuses on the codes of a gallery and how art is delivered to an audience, revealing the structures that are often hidden from the audience. It is how the artists reveal these structures and codes that makes the exhibitions so interesting and how it brings together two artists that seem visually different but the context to their work forms an interesting conversation into the psychology of an audience and their participation.
Claire Walker is a writer based in Wigan.
Images courtesy of Castlefield Gallery.
Head to Head: Vasilis Asimakopoulos and Christian Falsnaes, Castlefield Gallery, Manchester.
2 September 2016 — 6 November 2016.