Text by Alice Bradshaw
For the relaunch of Castlefield Gallery, a new solo show by Dave Griffiths inhabits the 28-year-old contemporary art gallery. Having notably a long trajectory of supporting Manchester-based artists, this latest incarnation of the artist-led establishment is fully embracing their support-role objective after the shock loss of Arts Council England funding and rebrand as both a gallery and agency.
Griffiths is doing pretty well of late and maybe isn’t the likeliest candidate for support, but support in the form of a solo show by one of Manchester’s finest independent galleries is quite an opportunity. Griffiths and Castlefield Gallery already have a strong history which recently manifested in a co-production of the featured Babel Fiche commissioned by Film and Umbrella.
Babel Fiche examines the nature of digital image archives through an online collaboration with a number of artists, filmmakers, writers and a musician. Griffiths takes open source data sharing as the means of collecting a selection of images from the immensity of online content to be archived as an edition of unique colour microfiche plates – a relatively redundant technology developed in Manchester in 1850s. A bank of microfiche readers is set up in the gallery for visitors to scan over whilst a double-sided screen documents the project in an 18 minute HD film. This conversion from digital to analogue is the polar opposite of what many organisations and individuals are currently undertaking with their archives as the world around turns digital.
Alongside Babel Fiche is a second installation Deep Field [The Photographic Universe] consisting of three large table structures featuring formations of curious dots. Magnifiers are placed on the tables inviting visitors to investigate further what these embedded views contain. On close inspection, each backlit image reveals a microscopic galaxy through a cut in the wooden surface. The magnification reveals jagged splinters of cut wood holes where the unassisted eye sees neat and precise incisions, further emphasising the scale of the images. These microfilm galaxies are accompanied by a large wall drawing scaling the two-storey height of the space, with a telescope directed at the mass of coordinates marked in black and labelled as Earth, Manchester, FOV 40° 2012-09-08 18:00:00.
A commonality of both these installations is the notion of seeking. The idea that large amounts of data are now omnipresent facts of life suggests the role as viewer is one of browser, sifter, scanner, selector and editor of visual information. The content of the presented visual data could in some ways be incidental, but it’s apparently not. The source of the collected images has a narrative and importance, if not intrinsically in the nature of the image itself, now prescribed by becoming part of this work. Here, temporarily, Castlefield Gallery, Manchester is the centre of the universe with Griffiths outwardly looking at the culture and technologies of representation surrounding this microcosm.
Dave Griffiths’ ‘Babel Fiche’ runs at Castlefield Gallery, Manchester until 30th September 2012.
Alice Bradshaw is a writer and artist based in the North of England.
Published 15.08.2012 by Bryony Bond in Reviews