Dance macabre

picture-3.pngThe overall theme of One one one gallery’s current exhibits is distinctively gloomy. Past the less-than-cheerful assistant at the door, the first picture to greet me is a large canvas from which rises a mass of smashed architecture models covered in black paint – the relief of a desolated planet ravaged by wars and violence. Gerry Judah’s Angels 05 reminds me of another apocalyptic vision of the world that had made an impression on me a few months ago: Anselm Kiefer’s huge battle fields of thick red and brown mud from which blue and yellow flower-dots were surfacing here and there (Aperiatur Terra exhibition, White Cube, 2007). This time, Kiefer’s religious painting Sefer Hechaloth, hanging on the opposite wall, looks a bit more hopeful, with what resembles prayer-flags floating above a slushed, snowy landscape – is this still an image of earth or am I now enveloped in the mysterious heavenly skies of the Hebrew story?

Continuing with the surrounding atmosphere of death and desperation, three large rusted iron boxes stand in thebreather2.png middle of the gallery space. Inside them, what the artist has called a ‘cyclical drama in a box’ is unfolding through high-definition video and stereoscopic imagery. In Frozen, one looks down from the waist-high box to peer into a laboratory glass chamber, containing bodies in cryonic hibernation. Lying down side by side, they appear in turn through the glass, in an endless circle that should take them to another age, another world, in what seems a futile escape from this one, should they ever wake up again. BOB shows a crazed-looking man marching in the long clinical-green corridor of a high security prison. He keeps walking, relentlessly, up to the point of meeting his own image marching from the other end, passing himself by as if he’d stepped through a mirror and gone out of it again. His gaunt silhouette and emaciated features resemble the character of John Turturro being chased by madman Goodman in the corridor of their burning hotel in Barton Fink. The third box reveals a water tank inside: I reluctantly look through the peep-through device and come face-to-face with a woman emerging from the water’s surface, exhausted and distressed, only to dive down again with urgency. I squat down and search the underwater through another pair of stereoscopic eyes. A troubling scene is awaiting me: a young man, looking up like a desperate chick, is waiting there for her kiss of life. She breathes into him and goes up again for another gulp of air. Beyond the chilling thought of them being caged in there until their death, in Breather, Doug Foster goes further than in the other two boxes, reducing the great cycle of life, as celebrated by Matisse in The Dance, to a depressingly useless mechanical process which has us turned into mere repetitive, biological devices and our own selves’ life-saving machines. He thus finishes up, in a sleek and polished style, One one one show’s futuristic doomed-planet scenario.

In a corner, Anthony Gormley’s lean giacomettiesque sculpture of a woman seems to be rising from her own ashes, acting like a sinister omen for the 21st century – Insider is described by the artist as ‘a kind of residue, something that is left behind (…) a core rather than a skeleton’. It brings about – in a bid to increase our ecological and spiritual awareness? – the question of the place and fate of humanity within this world and beyond, and the traces that we leave behind.

Works from the David Robert Collection at One one one gallery, until end of January

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~ by lavivette on January 13, 2008.

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