Cacotopia, International Anthony Burgess Foundation

Text by Lauren Velvick.

The term Cacotopia, combining utopia and cacophony, refers to a system of worst possible government, whereby underlying disharmony is suppressed by an insidiously dictated normality. Laura Mansfield, curator of Cacotopia, noted that in his discussion of the concept, Anthony Burgess located a Cacotopic tendency in ‘the stresses of contemporary life’, citing every day frustrations such as bills, late public transport and a sense of powerlessness in solving these problems as examples. In line with Burgess’ conception, the works on show as part of this shuddering, subterranean exhibition seek to evoke the possibility of discord beneath and within the logic of the ordinary.

Matti Isan Blind’s, Keep Mind Open (2013), which greets visitors descending the staircase into I.A.B.F’s basement gallery, consists of four typewriters from the Anthony Burgess archive, displayed neatly in a museum-like case, with a mysterious sculpture on the second shelf from the top. The sculpture looks to be made of concrete, or has been given that effect, and is a hollow cube with the corner cut out revealing an impossibly dark interior. The typewriters toning in with their surroundings, in shades of teal, red and grey, contrast sharply with the gaping cube in their midst. Meanwhile, a vaguely mechanical rumble in the background emanates from Matti Isan Blind’s other work; Stolen Identities (2013), a mirror that jitters as if shaken by an earthquake, or a passing HGV.

With Rebecca Lennon’s film We Are Stuck Together Part Two (2010) and Elisabeth Molin’s Suspension 1 (2012) this sense of quivering movement is reasserted, and embedded awkwardly within vaguely recognisable situations. In We Are Stuck Together Part Two, a figure is depicted on television, trembling in the road, making for unsettling viewing as we become bystanders and voyeurs, lacking in agency and powerless to help. Then, in Molin’s Suspension 1, projected low to the ground on a blackened sheet of paper, a short scene of bubbling liquid is repeated and becomes cauldron-like in its’ threat of impending turmoil.

Throughout the exhibition objects from the archive are interspersed with strange quasi-domestic arrangements, and neat, modern display cases. Franziska Lantz’s Untitled (mothclothdress) (2013), a blocky garment patterned with bursts of deep grey, is hung from a coat hanger on the wall, above an old fashioned leather seated chair, and next to Atlanta 1970-71, a small photograph which depicts an androgynous, glowing figure. The composition of dress, chair and photograph, like something from a carefully arranged bedroom, sit next to David Wojtowycz’s Tomorrow Belongs to You Part II (2013), a series of watercolours which are shown flat in a display case, illustrating what look to be moments of pop culture, but are ambiguous in their origin; they could be from here or somewhere else, and from now or some-when else.

Mundane activities such as watching, cooking and dressing are referenced, although not directly invoked, and are juxtaposed with clearly archaic objects, such as Blind’s typewriters, and the harpsichord which is incorporated into David Wojtowycz’s Good Girl (2012). These methods of display encourage the artworks to appear as artefacts of an alternate realm that strangely mirrors our own, creating parabolical fictions that are disturbing but also pique the viewer’s curiosity, with their references to what might be bubbling or gaping beneath the surface of everyday rationality in our own reality.

Lauren Velvick is an artist, curator and writer based in Manchester.

Published 04.06.2013 by Alexander Taber in Reviews

555 words