Identical twins Ayo & Oni Oshodi extend their interest in observational psychology and reveal the idiosyncrasies of human behaviour with a new audio-visual installation, using an old diary and the material remnants of an earlier work as a starting point.
A simple cardboard and timber structure in the Terrace Gallery is used to conceal a kitsch portrait found in a Brighton flea market. The portrait recurs from an earlier installation ‘Brown-Eyed Girl’ (2010), contributed by the twins to the mac group show ‘Their Wonderlands’ in 2011 - 2012.
Curated by trans-disciplinary collective ‘They Are Here’, that installation saw Ayo & Oni take turns to stand behind the painting over a two-month period. The painting had its eyes drilled through, giving the artists a window on the behaviour of gallery attendees, who were given torches to navigate the darkened exhibition. The artists kept a diary of their experiences and observations, which is made public, for the first time, with this new work ‘And when you finally disappear / We’ll just say you were never here’ (2013 - 2014).
Through recorded readings contributed by a circle of 30 friends and collaborators, the new installation presents ‘Brown-Eyed Girl’ from the perspective of the artists’ gaze and experience, thereby disrupting viewing conventions and accepted rules around gallery access and participation.
Like hoarding on a building site, the timber structure acts as a physical barrier to an unknown world. Two eye holes drilled into the front of the structure provide the only connection between the viewer and the world of the manipulated painting. Peering through the holes, the viewer is confronted with an eerie and somewhat disorientating reflection of their own eyes staring out from drilled eye sockets in the face of an anonymous girl. With each blink, the viewer brings to life an otherwise inert portrait of a golden-haired girl trapped in time. This sight recalls the cobweb-covered portraits with moving eyes that decorate walls of haunted houses on ghost train rides. A coded padlock on the exterior of the structure heightens the mystery and intrigue created by the peep holes, as well as the feeling of entrapment.
A sense of intimacy between the viewer and the portrait embedded with the viewer’s eyes is created by the audio, which is an integral part of the viewing encounter. A series of diary entries is narrated in succession, conveying a seemingly endless stream of personal reflections punctuated only by dates and the individual accents of each contributor. The tempo and rhythm of the voices range enormously, from the distinctive character of Black Country and Dundee dialect through to more awkwardly spoken passages recited by non-native English speakers. The diary entries give rare insight into the often lonely, and sometimes humorous, life of a painting and spotlight the idiosyncrasies of the viewing public. References to ‘blinding’, ‘blowing’, ‘poking’ and ‘creepiness’ recur throughout the diary.
Just as observational researchers exert a level of control over the environment of their subjects, Ayo & Oni restrict the free will of their audience to navigate the work on their own terms. The installation is sited within the hub of the Arena bar, where dozens of people congregate to consume, read, and people watch. To participate in the ‘game’, we must perform the same set of actions and, in doing so, take centre stage as viewing fodder.