We have all been there. Travelled to the venue, paid for the ticket, bought the food, only to find that when you take your seats you need to squint to see the stage, the sound barely reaches your ears or there is something blocking your view; the worst seats in the house. In the disused office space Its Kind Of Hard To Explain (IKO) has brought together a group of emerging-artists-you-should-know-about, containing a number of Northern practitioners, in The Worst Seats In The House at Capstan House.
The exhibition is set on a large plinth that operates as a stage and separates the audience from the works as they fluctuate between art and theatre props – sculpture that can be and is something else. Three of Lily Ackroyd-Willoughby’s arrows, which are part of the series ‘Never Ending Story’ (2016), seem like stage directions hanging throughout the show. These are accompanied by 2 works from another series ‘The Writing of Stones’ (2016) which are gloss coated freestanding MDF pieces that look like urban relics from the millennial age; cool and sleek, they demonstrate her talent to transform materials from one visual register to another. Much like Sam Carvosso’s ‘Outgrowth’ (2017), a large sculpture made of wood that has been produced for the show and built into the stage, they seem to transform into objects of set design, in place to perform around. Along the beams, reminiscent of Albrecht Durer’s ‘Great Piece of Turf’ (1503), are minimal features of outlines of rocks and patches of turf that have been charred. This fluctuation is at its most poignant with Liam Fallon’s ‘Love Club’ (2017). A large comically kitsch club that is actually made of jesmonite and fibreglass, visitors can’t get close enough to the work to understand any different and although the title of the work assumes its own humour – like Harry Meadley’s ‘#Spousie’ (2017), which involves 2 water bottles with his own and his wife’s name on – it furthers IKO’s use of theatrical devices. Joe Fletcher Orr’s ‘Muppet’ (2016), aptly describes its material as ‘cuddly toy’. It features what you think to be a familiar character, sat facing away from the audience, reflected by the glass window; its eerie passivity to the rest of the show drawing similarities with the artist’s own blasé feeling about art.
As you move along the stage the show enacts itself as if a performance, constantly changing and producing various constellations within it. Alfie Strong’s three-part work ‘Sang of You in Song’ (2017) is made up of a large tapestry, three toadstool-like creations and two haunting papier-mâché heads. Its taut and dark witted folkloric qualities mirror that of Hazel Brill’s ‘A Pig’s Ear’ (2017), an enchanting video installation at the bottom of a polystyrene well. The work’s veiled narratives and shrouded ambiguities create something that is truly unique, a hypnotic mediation on the past and present. In the middle of the stage, behind a pillar, hangs a screen. It plays Leila Ziu’s ‘538 sculptures’ (2017), a video of a performance she had produced in the space during the shows installation. A metronomic sound ticks; Ziu walks into the video frame, pauses and begins to move in correspondence. Her positions are evocative and revealing – similar to that of a model at the end of a catwalk – event sculpture that is expanded on by being framed through a screen.
IKO employ artist-curator methods to tie the works together under another narrative apart from the act of exhibition itself; black crosses scatter the floor of the space made in accordance to where the show was photographed, creating a multi-dimensional intersection between the works, the staging and its documentation. A version of Ziu’s video can also be found on the IKO home page, it has the same setting, the same metronomic ticking, but Ziu is absent. The performer, however, is replaced with the sound of drilling and hammering, a preview or trailer to the show. It also functions as an outro, an interlude between this project and their next. When meeting Durcan we discus this act of permanence and the potential of an exhibition’s documentation. ‘People do look at shows online more, it’s this kind of pre-stage, but we’re thinking about how it can also be the final stage…framing the idea of actually photographing the work.’ IKO’s potential as a collective lies in their approach, transcending the traditional and establishing new modes of thought.
The Worst Seats In The House, Capstan House, London.
22 September – 01 October 2017.
It’s Kind Of Hard To Explain is an artist run, non–profit trio made up of Oliver Durcan, Corey Bartle-Sanderson and Steven Gee.
SET is an arts and community initiative focused on the provision of project space and affordable artists studios.
William Clarke is an artist and curator based in London.