(It’s All) Tropical present Blind Date

“At the start of 2016, three lonely artists released a WLTM callout for creative collaborators to embark on a six week labour of love.”

Three relationships, orchestrated by the marauding roadshow that is (It’s All) Tropical and hosted by Liverpool’s The Royal Standard, were chosen by Rachel Cunningham Clark.

As a presee to the exhibition, in the entrance we are given ‘a quick reminder’ (from Our Graham, perhaps?) of the video callouts each Tropical artist made, from the lonely, to the moody, to the brash. With little further information to go off when entering the exhibition it is fortunate in that respect that the simplicity in which the space is configured allows the works on display to shout out. The approaches, themes and aesthetics of each collaboration differ vastly.

In his promo video, Josef Zachary Shanley Jackson announced that he was worried applicants would favour the more ‘cool’ options of Lindsey Mendick or Alfie Strong. Whether this is a pretence or not, Jackson’s concerns are unfounded and the relationship his work has with that of Caitlin Merrett King is strong and probably the most believable collaboration. Their work is well matched: it is playful yet sincere. A strong, minty scent emanating from the toothpaste used on canvases is childish but not in a derogatory way.

Probably the most coherently collaborative work is that of Alfie Strong and Uma Breakdown. An apocalyptic scene of felt hazmat suits by Strong forms a stage for Breakdown to perform a comical ode to Stephen King. His use of a Dr. Pepper can-cum-mic is inventive and his delivery is charming though the execution is perhaps somewhat clumsy. It works. Manic in his desire to tell his story, dressed from waist down in Strong’s yellow costume, there is a sinister undertone to the performance which translates across from Strong’s scenery.

Lindsey Mendick’s work, produced with Millington|Marriott, seems more like an amalgam than a collaboration. The wonders of social media will tell you that this pairing did not quite play by the rules in that they met up beforehand. This is neither important to the viewer nor critical to the show itself, though it does beg the question of whether the rules were necessary in the first place aside from offering a cute cultural reference. As always, the cultural references are rife in Mendick’s work. Her marrying of classicism and 90s nostalgia brings real Skips and a ceramic Toffee Crisp together with neon lit Ionic columns. This is a powerful combination and, though not the strongest work within the context of this exhibition, it is perhaps the work most deserving of its own space.

As hosts, The Royal Standard could either be playing the role of Cilla Black or Our Graham, maybe both. A forthcoming show curated by Manchester-based Tom Emery, Playing By The Rules (12 – 27 March), along with the project spaces contained within The Royal Standard – Cactus, Studio 1.11 and White Wizard – it seems at the moment that the soon to be 10-year-old organisation is embracing collaborative production and outsourcing. Blind Date is a collaboration within a collaboration within a collaboration and one could suggest the level of incestuous exhibition making is nearing critical mass. The use of the word ‘incestuous’ is maybe too strong, but equally it doesn’t need to be taken negatively.

James Harper is an artist, curator and writer based in Liverpool.

Photograph by Robert Battersby.

(It’s All) Tropical present Blind Date, The Royal Standard, Liverpool

19- 28 February 2016

Published 02.03.2016 by Georgina Wright in Reviews

588 words