David Price: ‘Into The Field’
Review by Karl Musson
In ‘The Politics of Fiction’, Elif Shafak refers to a notion she calls “the commute between languages”. She explains that the gap between the mind and the tongue can be intimidating, but also stimulating. The word translation itself gives us a glimpse of a counter-part being not quite a direct correspondent. ‘Trans’ might suggest that meaning goes through a change of manifestation, yet somehow remains unchanged in essence. Ubersetzen in German perhaps offers a more humbling proposition in so far as meaning is ‘set’ elsewhere, and so is not an accurate equivalent when in that other context. This is exemplified by Anna Tebelius in a publication which both accompanies the exhibition, and is part of it. She points out that if the Swedish word for pillow case is translated into English literally, it becomes ‘eagle candy’. On one level very different, but it encourages a question; is there a more mythical, more interesting origin to the word pillow case, pertaining perhaps to dreams’
Just as uncanny isn’t precisely the opposite of canny, ‘Into The Field’ could be said to reside in, and celebrate, the liminal space between ‘not quite corresponding’ objects and concepts. As well as using the physical space of SE8 Gallery, ‘Into The Field’ exists in the more ancillary, peripheral parts of a gallery’s operation. The press release, for example, introduces us to the fact that this exhibition has many layers by pointing out that it is a solo show by David Price which includes the work of other artists. It then gives a brief outline of how the artists met, which serves as a reminder of how coincidental so many things in life can appear to be.
The relationship between things which coincide imperfectly might be one of many points of access to this exhibition. In 1969, B. S. Johnson published a novel in the form of an unbound folio of pages. None of the pages had page numbers and the first sentence of each page followed grammatically from the last sentence of every other page. One could therefore shuffle them into any order and arrive at a different narrative each time. Implicit in the curatorial premise of this exhibition is multiplicity. As with Johnson’s unbound folio of pages, one could start anywhere and always arrive at a coherent appreciation of liminal spaces between concepts and objects.
One of the more materially apparent relationships between works is seen in the arrangement of four plus one pieces of work in the main room of the gallery. Two pictures face each other from opposite walls, as if in conversation. ‘Liquorice Patch’ (2012), a screen print by Price, has the lineage of print making. On an opposing wall, but not quite fully opposite, is a digital print by Andy Roche entitled ‘The Tooth that Bites, that Really Cuts, Bites Through, and Liberates’ (2012). The conversation between these two works doesn’t dwell on the obvious difference between screen prints and digital prints; neither does it dwell on self evident visual differences, such as the latter having a black background to a colourful montage of snakes and pretzels, while the former is a subtle monochrome. Nevertheless, these differences, as onion-like layers, inform the overall dialogue between the works.
There both is and isn’t a third print joining this dialogue. ‘Stain Code’ (2012), a video and sound piece by Price, takes as its subject a print that isn’t in the gallery ‘in person’ but is represented by the video and discussion, which at times cancels out the sound piece in an opposite corner.
‘Jazz Cube’ (2012), a sound piece by G. Leddington, addresses ‘Stain Code’ and both pieces are simultaneously aided and hindered by the gallery acoustics. They at once interrupt and are interrupted. But interestingly, the meaning is more than the sum of the contributory parts here, and one is left with a palpable sense of there being something significant about the gaps between things. The sounds work together, even in their not fully cancelling each other out, and the four way discussion becomes more than diametric opposition.
There is a fifth part to this almost symmetrical conversation, but, fittingly, it is placed so as to be more an external observer than a participant with the other four pieces. Perhaps in being slightly external, it contextualises the main debate. It also offers an additional perspective on liminality and metamorphosis. Price’s ‘In the Bitter Vessel’ (2012) is a wall piece made of two sheets of glass which are notionally fused together but at a temperature not quite high enough for them to become a single piece of glass. Between the glass sheets, instant coffee has been used to write “Amer y canot”. In firing, the coffee becomes carbonised, no longer coffee - the material has become something else like the exploration of mis-translated words in the accompanying newspaper-style publication.
This publication takes ‘Into The Field’ out of the gallery. It is a record of conversations around conceiving and developing the exhibition. In a similar way to how the press release’s overview of how the artists met serves as a reminder to how coincidental events can seem in life, this paper record of the thoughts which enabled the exhibition to become physically manifest might be read as a trail of conceptual footprints leading to the gallery, and also away from it as and when the paper is read outside. The publication might therefore be thought of as another point of access, were Johnson’s pages to have been shuffled differently.
With an exhibition which explores the gaps between concepts having been conceived to such an extent with words, we might be led to question the accuracy of a world view resultant of the apex position of nouns in our languages. As the map is never really the territory, one might say that ‘Into The Fields’ in some way maps what is missing from other maps.