Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art, City Library and Arts Centre, Fawcett Street, Sunderland SR1 1RE

  • Emotional Resources, Lead Image
    Artist : Donald Urquhart
    Title : Emotional Resources, Lead Image
    Credit : Courtesy of Donald Urquhart (2014)
  • Weak Rot Front (2010)
    Artist : Victor alimpiev
    Title : Weak Rot Front (2010)
    Credit : Courtesy the artist and NGCA
  •  (Framed) Sketchbooks (2013-2014)
    Artist : Phoebe Unwin
    Title : (Framed) Sketchbooks (2013-2014)
    Credit : Courtesy the artist and NGCA
  • J.K.- Ping-Pong Club (U.F.O.) (1970 - 2007)
    Artist : Julius Koller
    Title : J.K.- Ping-Pong Club (U.F.O.) (1970 - 2007)
    Credit : Courtesy the artist and NGCA
  • Fourth Utility Blue (2014)
    Artist : Donald Urquhart
    Title : Fourth Utility Blue (2014)
    Credit : Courtesy the artist and NGCA
  • We Are Young And We Are Friends of Time (2011) (detail)
    Artist : Moyra Davey
    Title : We Are Young And We Are Friends of Time (2011) (detail)
    Credit : Courtesy the artist and NGCA

Emotional Resources

Main Space: Victor Alimpiev, Amalia Ulman, Johann Arens, Renate Bertlmann, Ian Breakwell, Harry Burke, Moyra Davey, Július Koller, Daniel Lichtman, Harry Meadley, Erica Scourti, Matthew Smith, Pilvi Takala, Marie Toseland, Phoebe Unwin, Donald Urquhart | Project Space: Joanna Piotrowska

Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art, Sunderland

19th September 2014 - 10th January 2015

Review by Josh Wilson

‘Not… trying to make feelings go… by talking away…’

A quote from the video ‘Some Days’ (2014) by Erica Scourti

George Vasey’s inaugural exhibition as curator of the NGCA deplores the aesthetics of sensitive observation, the poetics of biographical distance and ruminates on our disparate screen-based devices as the threshold for introspective broadcast.

‘Week Rot Front’ (2010) a film by Victor Alimpiev fills a wall within the first room of the gallery. The nuanced and reductive movements executed by the actors exemplify the most pared down object of communication; gesture, for with each slight movement or expression comes with it the malleability of meaning. This mutability and our broader relationship with communication, largely sets the tone for the exhibition. The next room sees the devising of visual and oral matter between two artists - old and new - within the recorded diaries of Ian Breakwell and the drawings of Phoebe Unwin. Breakwell’s diary entries have anthropological traits, documenting everyday societal habits in vivid detailed studies; whereas Unwin’s drawings and paintings take a vivacious look at the patterns and colour of their encompassing visual environment.

Marie Toseland’s ‘A Throat Swallows’ (2014) was a particular highlight of the exhibition, devised simply as an audio recording played through speakers in literal contact with four wooden panels. The sound sculptures were like two corners of a distant, fictive room causing in turn, a kind of yearning process within the listener: a turning of the head, a placement of an ear, a sense of the palpability of language.

Another was the work of Erica Scourti whose practice seems to play with the idea of honesty and the mediation of desktop life. Her videos often epitomise the potential urgency of reifying our every thought - only ‘Some Days’ (2014) included the added variable of poetic distance, as a retrospectively recorded dictation is layered in. Exposing the lineage of thought from initial projection to the lens of the camera, eschewed by a refashioned layer of verbalisation; Scourti appears to emit or potentially alter certain words when desired, as if the spoken thinks better of the mouth. To some extent Scourti emanates the videos of the Israeli artist Guy Ben-Ner where a domestic environment turns into a set and his family its characters. In fact, both artists endeavour to transcend the attraction of referencing one’s life within one’s practice and instead use it as sculptural content, warped and coloured.

There is also an interesting relationship between the videos of Erica Scourti and Daniel Lichtman. Beyond the proximity of the webcam; their similarities move forth within the pauses, the language, the slow moving eyelids, the sporadic rhythm of voice and sentences undercooked. Each word only reaches our ears by being wrapped prior in a kind of muted, emotive binding - nothing else. Mark Leckey has implied once before that the Internet can in a way, aid the disabled and disable the able, akin to a ‘developed’ mind drawing parallels with an autistic mind. Perhaps the internet is altering language and our relationships more rapidly than we could have anticipated. Scourti and Lichtman’s flattened physiognomy and expressionless tones are only one example of this.

Within the exhibition it seems there are two categories to the ‘emotional’. Conjured first is a type of real world relation which can be called ‘the sensual’ (Piotrowska, Toseland, Bertlmann, Koller and Arens), the second is a reviewing of one’s own events which can be called ‘the autobiographical’ (Breakwell, Lichtman, Scourti, Urquhart, Meadley). The two blanket terms are very evidently brought to the fore when confronted with the increased velocity and further personable distance of recent communication, in whatever form it may take. ‘Emotional Resources’ does not intend to act as a broad critique of this omnipotent technologising of space but indeed performs a contemplation of where and when we need it most.

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