Maureen Paley, London
12 April - 26 May 2013
Review by Tim Walsh
Anne Hardy is determined to break into a different space via photography. Her scenes are set up purely for the camera, for its photograph - to be shot. In ‘Notations’ 2012, displayed on the ground floor of Maureen Paley’s Bethnal Green gallery space, we have arrived after a gun-fight; bullet holes flock across the wall having pierced the cheap backdrop, joined by numbered evidence markers and small paper bullseyes. Even the objects that hang, are nailed to the MDF, or sit on shelves, are begging to be popped or punctured. It’s a smorgasbord of potential targets - delicate porcelain vases, suspended glass bottles, eggs and distended, liquid-filled balloons. The disposable metal BBQ tray, I imagine, would make a satisfying but hollow sound were it to take a round.
Normally it is the living subject that recognises its own position within the photographic construct, its need to pose and strut. Here the objects seem to know too. In a recent interview with Coline Milliard, Hardy stresses the important role that objects play as the impetus of her work, with each discovery leading to another that fits into the tableau. Each constituent here effects both each other and the overall. As Milliard notes, comparisons with Thomas Demand and Jeff Wall are common. Though they all look like they shoot in a vacuum, Hardy shies away from the broader generalisation - her works aren’t concerned with being mimetic, where Demand and Wall tend to want theirs to look part of the world.
For the first time, Hardy has constructed her unique environments within the gallery proper, inviting the viewer to step inside what normally ends up in a skip once a shoot is complete. In the same gallery as ‘Notations’, Hardy has constructed ‘Fieldwork (materials)’ (2013), a free-standing rounded annexe or service space of sorts, a tool shed where her favourite materials are prepped - carpet tile off cuts, plywood shards and pre-squirted foam blobs. Upstairs, ‘Two joined fields - Field (/\) & Field (decagon)’ (2013) greets the viewer with a bare framework exterior first. Entering through a set of saloon swing doors, the interior is painted in a dark and deep peacock blue green. Across the floor a stocktake of geometric cast concrete shapes is underway. A small millstone has a wood peg through the hole at its centre. In the low light, scrawled schematics cover the walls - something is being planned, but what that is isn’t apparent.
Instead of Demand and Wall, Hardy notes the influence of installation artists such as Gregor Schneider and Mike Nelson. Nelson is an interesting comparison, his spaces are labyrinthine and moody interiors primarily - you get the feeling they could be sheltering an underground insurgency. Like Nelson, Hardy seems determined to play with the conventions of spatial structuring. Her photographs seem to capture their subject in a state of latency, somewhere between meaningfulness and nothing. Hardy’s new annexes are similarly confused - as sculptures they don’t know their inside from out. They reveal to us their support or brace first, what is normally packed out of sight in wall cavities, hidden alongside a mess of metal struts, wooden framework, expanded foam and a fluoro or naked bulb. In architectural terms, this ‘third space’ is called a spandrel, the leftover gap between an arch and the roof above it, or two walls. For Slavoj ‘i’ek, a spandrel can be a political space where emancipation breeds, a hidden excess that has a grander capacity than its footing suggests. By Hollywood’s terms, this is normally where perverts tend to lurk at peepholes. We view Hardy’s new work from within ‘the white cube’, a grander structuring system already. By that logic, we witness a nod to the gallery as spandrel, the archetypal liberated dimension.
 Coline Milliard, ‘In New London Show, Anne Hardy’s Parallel Worlds Harness the Power of Suggestion’ Modern Painters [Accessed online 20 April 2013] Slavoj ‘i’ek, ‘Architectural Parallax: Spandrels and Other Phenomena of Class Struggle’ Public lecture April 23 2009, Jack Tilton Gallery, New York City [Accessed online 20 April 2013]