Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Review: ICA Art Night 2016

Ok, a non-nautical post reviewing the ICA's Art Night 2016. It was a first for London, though other cities have had them, and there was much that sounded intriging in the billing, but how did it turn out?

First up was Celia Hemptom's installation at 180 The Strand that "combines abstracted landscapes and bodies that explore the source of the River Thames, to consider the river as a historical and metaphorical object". You could see why this was my first port of call but it was basically three pictures of "naked young women spreadeagled" to quote the Guardian. Think Courbet’s L’Origine du Monde in triplicate, representing the origin of the Thames.

It seemed a tenuous connection. You could put the same three picturess with the title Westminster and it could represent... well you can guess what... or something about Tampons to reflect consumerism etc. There was nothing really that said Thames to me but the view.

Score: ***** 

It would have be just the one star but the images were really quite memorable, if not really suitable for a family-friendly blog.

Next up was Nina Beier's installation Anti-Ageing in a luxury show apartment at 190 Strand. As well as the chance to nose around a posh-pad (but not for me, ground floor The Strand with its traffic noise and fumes) there were "performance sculptures" like this:
In case you're wondering what you're looking at, its a man with a face mask slowly drying while outside a man smokes a cigarette (yes that is part of the installation). Elsewhere there were two women doing yoga and a dog lying on a carpet. There were some objects I couldn't work out whether they were art or part of the show flat - such as having The Picture of Dorian Gray on the book shelves.

Indeed the phrase "but is it art"? was clearly being thought and said much on the streets of London that night. But some effort had been put in and it related to the brief so:

Score: ***** 

Next up was Jennifer West's Film Title Poem in St Mary le Strand church, which involved digitised hand painted 16mm film:
What to say.... er... "ok?"

Score: ***** 

Next along The Strand was Somerset House for Xu Zhen's "first cultural fitness exercise" ever, the Physique of Consciousness:
Basically yoga style group exercises. Reminded me of what I saw in Shanghai: mass post-work exercising on the city centre streets. Another case of .... er... "ok?"

Score: ***** 

Then up to Covent Garden for two installations from Cecila Bengolea and Jennifer West. Unfortunately one hadn't started and the other couldn't been seen until dark, so those had to be scrubbed.

Time for something to eat and the Itsu on the Strand.

Afterwards on to the Duke of York Steps and British artist and musician Linder's live theatrical tableau that "considers transformation as a state of mind". Obviously.

It had been raining earlier that evening so initially nothing was happening but I arrived at a good time as shortly afterwards it kicked off. There was a band, chorus, dancers (top), bunny / hospital costumes (below) and much more:
It wasn't clear how long it went on for but seemed to be a whole series of ~5 minute segments, each slightly different from the other. There were references to dreams which I sort of got but after 4 cycles I couldn't see what else I'd get from the event so moved on (some events had timed tickets).

Score: ***** 

Next up was Turner Prize winner Laure Prouvost's After After at the Admiralty Arch. This sounded very intriguing involving "a conceptual journey through the rooms of Admiralty Arch, playing with the history, architecture and interior design". The wait to get in, alas, was an hour and there proved to be a lot less of the building accessible than hoped.

But it had its moments. My favourite was being invited into an antrium and then toilets in which two residents claimed to have been there 15 and 50 years offered glasses of vodka with squid ink shots. They asked how things were outside and we told them in no uncertain words they should stay in as the outside world had gone to pot.

The actual After After was just weird: a pitch black room was lit up by spots that switched on and off showing sculpture in corners or video clips. Much is lost but I remember a tin of beans talking to a washing sponge and a video of a women (murdered?) naked on a river / lake bank. My take away feeling was that it was a bit like experiencing a dream while awake.

Score: ****

I was tempted to give it just 3 stars because of the wait but there had at least been some work done and it resulted in a bit of thought rather than just "eh?".

Finally there as Koo Jeong A's installation in the disused Jubilee Line station at Charing Cross. Now this was potentially very exciting, as disused tube stations are always intriguing, and this one promised "a sensory environment using smell and light that considers the architecture of the Underground as a place of bodily encounters and movement". 

A lot of words but what actually did we get:
Basically access to the tube station, barriers to prevent us going onto the platforms (maybe a safety constraint), spot lights pointing inwards and some sort of incense smell. 

To be honest it felt like the artist had felt that writing the blurb was the main exercise and then buggered off leaving the hard work to TfL. It seemed like only the minimalist interpretation of the brief and a bit of wasted opportunity.

Score: ***** 

Note those stars were for seeing the disused tube platform not the art.

Overall the idea of an Art Night London felt like a great idea but wasn't sure the artists had really delivered on the briefs. There seemed to be themes between installations of dance and dreams but it wasn't clear. At times it felt like an in-joke for an inward looking art community.

But I hope it does return in 2017 and learns from the experience.

No comments: