Reality and Constructed Factual – Art Sheffield Parallel Projects, Unit 2, Speedwell Works

 Text by David McLeavy

From the site of an abandoned industrial building in the heart of Sheffield’s city centre comes Reality and Constructed Factual, as part of the festival’s Parallel Projects – a series of events and projects that run alongside the main exhibition but do not strictly adhere to the curatorial premise of Zero Hours.

The exhibition deals with ideas of repetition, mass visual consumption and the construction of fictional realities. The title of the show comes from the recently formed BAFTA category that includes such television shows as The Only Way is Essex and Made In Chelsea. These present scenes of reality like many shows before them, however they are cut with fictional scenes that have been set up to dictate a specific narrative or plot. This makes it difficult to determine whether a scene is genuine or constructed, resulting in the entire production seeming to be a cocktail of authenticity and scripted choreography.

Brian Dooley has created a series of photographs mounted upon metal panels that hang from industrial poles, reminiscent of pull up bars that may be found between the doorways of fitness fanatics. Each photograph differs slightly in composition, but  together they emphasise repetition as a method of cementing a point or narrative. Other sculptural work comes from the London based duo, Peles Empire, in the form of three very similar slumping ceramic masses, which address similar concerns to the repetition in Dooley’s photographs. Oliver Laric’s work, Versions, provides an insight into the way we use and re-appropriate information, as well as how information and objects could be changed, or manipulated, whilst retaining the same symbolism or meaning.

The standout work comes from London based artist Hannah Perry. Perry’s video collage; Wonderful While it Lasts cuts advertising footage and imagery from iconic mass marketed products with innocent or unscripted home footage. Throughout the duration of the work, a text narrative vaguely leads you through a barrage of imagery that often deviates from a single specific plot. There are distinct similarities between the structure of Perry’s work and that of shows such as TOWIE and Made in Chelsea, in the way they cut authentic and staged scenes together, however it would be an injustice to Perry’s work to suggest that it merely provides mindless and exploitative entertainment, which can often seem to be the case with many mainstream reality television shows. Wonderful While it Lasts questions the impact of slickly produced advertising in contrast to home video footage, and emphasises the fact that the amateur footage is often more interesting.

Reality and Constructed Factual provides a stimulating take on many current and rising issues within culture and wider society. The show, as a whole, poses interesting questions of repetition, digital culture and to some extent also interrogates our current throw-away culture, concerns that can be paralleled with the premise of  Zero Hours.

Reality and Constructed Factual, curated by Chloe Rëith, is on display until 14 December 2013, and David Raymond Conroy will produce a live performance as part of the exhibition on 30th November.

David McLeavy is an Artist and Curator based in Sheffield.