Review by Phoebe Dickerson
The fact that Claire Fontaine’s current exhibition in London’s Regina Gallery is twinned with a simultaneous show in Moscow is no mere symptom of international acclaim. Instead, Claire Fontaine - a double-headed collaboration based in Paris - state that this ‘double exhibition’ represents globalization as a force which reproduces identical experiences, identical products, enabling their simultaneous experience worldwide. In this case, the experience being reproduced is ‘Fighting Gravity,’ an exhibition that seeks to ‘approach the threatening magma deposited inside our lives by the recent economic crisis’ - a crisis that has seen people and their money become weightless, to ‘evaporate,’ ‘no longer important, no longer present.’
I loitered outside the Regina Gallery before going in. Above the gallery’s glass frontage, a neon sign read, self-referentially, ‘This neon sign was made by Vladimir Ustinov for the remuneration of one hundred and sixty-nine thousand rubles.’ Through the wall of glass, banks of hanging-baskets twisted slowly on chains. Could a machine be contriving their slow, continuous motion or is this gravity in action’ A golden parachute spilt out of a backpack in the corner, recalling superheroes, displaying the crumpled beauty of a contraption designed (and failing’) to support us. The composite visual experience was intriguing.
I entered, wandering between the baskets of what I now saw was synthetic ivy, hanging at head height, enjoying the curious sensation of human absence in the heart of London’s West End. I read the exhibition notes. Sculptures Suspendues (the hanging-baskets) expressed ‘the vicious circle of the artificial temporality of production.’ Parachute Doré (2010) visualised the term ‘golden parachute’ to denote the ‘luxurious conditions reserved to the business men who have made serious mistakes.’ Our neon sign was made by a Russian, Moscow’s by a Brit, ‘obliterating’ the ‘financial advantage coming from producing goods abroad and exporting them.’ Such direct messages struck me somewhat as an imposition on the enigmatic potency of the artworks: while the artworks fight gravity, the notes seem to pin them down. But then, perhaps I am wrong to separate the verbal from the visual statement: perhaps the disunity or disparity between the two contributes to the statement.
The next room contained Fighting Gravity Moscow-London, London-Moscow (2010) - a double-sided screen on which cloud and sky, filmed from the cockpit of a private jet flying between the two cities, is projected. Addressing the ‘permanent danger of being far from the ground, prisoner of a fictitious heaven fuelled by oil, pollution and the violence of abusive privilege,’ to me it suggested calm weightlessness and suspension. Is it this ‘fictitious heaven’ that the viewer is trapped in that leads him / her to associate white cloud and blue sky with tranquility’
By contrast, the final piece was immediately disturbing. Suicide Stack (2010) shows the last words of a software engineer who flew a small airplane into the Austin IRS building, un-scrolling in a column of white type, like movie credits on a black screen. The words have a hypnotic quality (I found myself looking, not reading) but the voice that emerges as the bright white words force themselves on you in the darkness, is angry: desperately bitter at a government that saves its own ‘asses’ but allows ‘the poor to die for the mistakes.’ Direct, confrontational and alienating, Suicide Stack acts as a dead weight, putting a deliberate and effective stop to the exhibition’s vaporous struggle with gravity.
Regina Gallery, 22 Eastcastle Street, London, W1W 8DE
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Title : Fighting Gravity
Review by Phoebe Dickerson