Text by Rebecca Senior
Åbäke, Majed Aslam, Simeon Barclay, Chris Barr, Black Argos, Simon Boase, Bam Brooks, Joseph Buckley, Steve Carrick, Isaac Clarke, Philip Coyne, Matthew Crawley, Tom Esam, Alex Farrar, FOGBEAST, Ryan Gander, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Chris Newlove Horton, Alex Jackson, Perce Jerrom, Sean Kaye, Daisy Kennedy, Joseph Lewis, Francis Lloyd-Jones, Lindsay McMillan, Max Mead, Harry Meadley, Jonathan Monk, John Henry Newton, Hardeep Pandhal, Paul Rooney, Roland Ross, Benjamin Slinger, Iona Smith, David Steans, Matt Welch, Jenny West, Josh Whitaker, Christopher Wool
As a curatorial endeavor Wu-Tang: Killa Beez operates as an autopsied family tree. The thirty nine participating artists’ names are printed on all accompanying press material for the exhibition, yet the all works on display are unaccredited. This gestural anonymity conceptualises the Wu-Tang Clan’s first record deal, in which all members were granted the permission to record solo albums with other companies and by doing so became a group of collaborative solo artists. The exhibition functions as a similar unit, in which seemingly limitless Rubik’s Cube combinations of artistic collusion manifest themselves within the same framework. It is visually stimulating and humorously badly behaved.
Works on display tread the categories of video, sculpture, painting, text and photography across the space. The perpetual noise of Tony Hawk’ s pro-skater 1 appears to vomit forth from the open mouth of a Scrumpy Jack cider can in Whitaker and Welch’s JUICY MOUTH, the track list to its accompanying album is printed in silver on the opposing wall like floaty teenage-dream DNA. A single channel video emits images of eroded coastline, empty roads and coastal caravan sites alongside a Thatcher’s England folk styling of Springsteen’s ‘Dancing in the Dark’. These uncanny impressions transcend their original forms by provoking dislocated memories in flux. They at once belong to the artists, the Killa Beez, and visitors to the exhibition. A sense of ownership and hybridity is further conceptualized by Code Duello, a work by Meadley and Farrar, plastered on the rear wall in 50 orange and white A4 sheets. The piece functions as an anagrammatic narrative of an artistic duel, played out through a series of 50 proposed art works. It charts a disturbingly funny tale of severed tongues, cast incisors and mischievous artistic interference.
Similarly disturbing is Hardeep’s Egg, an informal noun to be used when an act of intended malice has a fortuitous outcome for the intended recipient. Hardeep’s Egg is ‘laid by lady luck’ and described by Pandhal and Steans in graphite bubble text on one wall of the space. Collaged on an adjacent cork board are line drawings of dummy headed dislocated body parts, cloaked erections, guns, tennis bats, tits and ping pong balls. They are presided over by a a neon rendering of William Hogarth’s Bathos, painted over Pandhal’s GCSE maths certificate. The work is a colourful concoction of under-dog triumph, splattered by its own act of intended malice in egg yolk yellow. Plonked in the right-hand corner of the space is the alluring work We guarantee you an afterlife by Aslam and Barr: a black Nike holdall, whose insides are filled with acrylic white lilies and illuminated by a UV light. Visitors can see through an unzipped corner of this vanitas body-bag, which sits quietly abandoned like an eerie piece of gangland memorabilia. It is sombre and cheap, sweet and nasty at the same time.
If the preceding description of the show seems like haphazard magpie picking, this is because the exhibition’s stated function ‘as an album, 12 inch’, has been realised. Like a track list, each piece on display is idiosyncratic and demanding. The most pertinent example of which is perhaps Predator 3 Standee by Crawley, Meadley and Steans.
Two seven foot cardboard cut-outs of Predator (the third is in invisible mode) invigilate the show and question whether art has the ability to ‘people’ an exhibition. They seem angrily impotent, their potential violence confined to the visitor’s imagination. With such divergent points of access, Wu-Tang: Killa Beez produces a syncretistic hybrid of art and artists without sacrificing the unique quality of individual works. The exhibition has been thoughtfully produced with the intention of being played, really fucking loud.
Rebecca Senior is a writer based in Leeds, and a Phd candidate in History of Art at The University of York.