The latest group show from The International 3 presents a series of quiet, subtle gestures that show the significance of the apparently insignificant, with the small-scale, unassuming and personal illustrating greater concepts, without the need for spectacle.
Reacting to 19th century utopian philosopher Charles Fourier, Laura Pawela’s Ocean presents a static shot of water that gradually turns from blue to yellow, referencing Fourier’s suggestion that when a utopian society was achieved, the seas would become desalinated, and sweet like lemonade. Pawela’s seas appear more of a piss-yellow, highlighting the naivety of outdated utopian thinking in the face of an unstoppable, timeless force such as the oceans.
Displaying a more personal relationship with nature, Joana Escoval’s Useless Education series consist of stones that she has collected since childhood, presented alongside bronze copies. The bronze immortalizes a single form, whilst simultaneously overriding the almost-inconceivable amount of time it would have taken for each stone’s unique form to take shape. Without this history, the man-made copy, made in the classical tradition of bronze casting, becomes less interesting than a plain stone.
Hondartza Fraga also engages in traditional practice, with immaculate drawings of blank globes. These images of the world are devoid of any land mass, appearing either as a primordial or post-apocalyptic state. These small-scale drawings appear ahistorical, a literal blank-slate in a quantum state of an ending, and a story not yet begun.
Emma Hart’s film Dice shows a simple game of dice with the sea standing in as Hart’s opponent, each taking turns to roll the dice, seeing who gets the favourable outcome with each roll. The piece engages with chance, with both the uncertain outcome of each roll, and the automatic process of the sea featuring as a player, Hart takes decisions out of her own hands, leaving them to fate. The game appears to go on in perpetuity, and indeed, it could only end if Hart chose to end it. The sea provides its inevitable response with each turn, reminding the viewer that natural forces will continue with or without human presence. Dice is a bittersweet piece, with the gentle surrealism of the game weighed against the loneliness of playing alone affirming the idea of the individual’s insignificance.
Also using chance, Philip Newcombe’s Untitled consists of a single dart (‘the flight, the colour of a fly trapped in a bedroom’ according to Newcombe), which at the beginning of each day is thrown into a random spot on the gallery wall by one of the International 3 directors. Over the course of the exhibition Untitled leaves a trail of where it’s been, a tangible history of the artwork to trace throughout the gallery, on each occasion failing to escape the confines of the space, and in fact, increasing in scale, becoming more artwork with each hole in the wall left in its wake.
Newcombe’s other contribution, The Most Beautiful Place in the World, deliberately obscures said place from the viewer, with a print-out from Google Maps folded and pinned to the wall to render it unreadable. The map instead becomes part of an autobiographical narrative, having travelled in Newcombe’s pocket since 2010.
Another narrative is presented by Noel Clueit, whose work/lamp (#12) is part of a series of lamps constructed from remnants of exhibition install processes, using materials from electrical tape to paint rollers. work/lamp (#12) then, functions as a monument to The Whole Wide World, making apparent the actual process of exhibition-making, something that art has traditionally kept hidden, instead preferring to present an appearance of effortless perfection.
Joe Fletcher Orr completes the exhibition, with Look after yourself, a matter-of-factly presented SAD (Seasonal Affected Disorder) lamp. The piece is almost literally a miniaturised version of Olafur Eliasson’s The Weather Project, with the SAD lamp fulfilling its medical function as an artificial sun. However, where Eliasson presented this on a massive scale, creating a communal experience, Orr references the isolated individual.
Tom Emery is a curator and writer based in Manchester.
Image courtesy of The International 3.
The Whole Wide World, The International 3, Manchester.
18 April – 29 May 2015.