At Lily Brooke, Evy Jokhova’s latest installation ‘Weighed down by stones’ is archaeological, concerning the weight of the past upon the present and the possibility of returning to it. The white walls of the terraced house gallery space have been sponged with charcoal to a sullen patchy grey. A small handmade ceramic hook and clothes button are pinned opposite the entrance, but the focus of the room is the angular totemic object occupying the centre space.
Its black steel frame and vertical emphasis resemble that of a domestic wood burner, but this object is dysfunctional; mounted on industrial casters, its hearth is filled in, and in place of a chimney it is topped by a luminous green perspex box filled with stones, plaster, compressed earth and ceramic shards. While not apparent, the object is measuring and calculating the positions of viewers via discreet ultrasound sensors, translating this to a synthesised audio track, and transmitting radio signals to wireless headphones.
The three sensors of the object control nine separate channels of pop-influenced soundscape, with drum machine beats, bells, and samples of singing Masai herdsmen and fishermen. Position around the object activates the three sets of samples, distance from the object controls the intensity – a fact to be realised as visitors begin to slowly circle the object, activating the audio sample by sample. Jokhova likes to compare this to the image of the much-mythologised prehistoric camp fire, albeit transferred to our own time.
But this time is not prehistory, this movement doesn’t derive from ritual, where actions are observed for their own sake, but from investigation into time and place – a thoroughly modern mentality. The modern perception of time is neither strictly circular and repetitive, nor linear and teleological, but oscillates somewhere between the two, cut through all parts by discontinuities. This is described by the discontinuous soundscape, with its rhythm that doesn’t keep time and its use of field recordings that dissociate sounds from their context.
The themes of the presence of the past and suspension of the future are further taken up by the text that accompanies the exhibition, written by the author and critic Michael Amherst. The author recollects clearing out his late mother’s home which he has inherited, but he sees the place less as a home than “A museum to a life, or lives, translated through objects” while expressing the desire for “a way to remember that is also letting go”.
The installation plays with the objectification of memories: the collection of stones that cap the object are an expression of the attempt to suspend the inexorable passage of time, an interruption of the entropic processes that scatter rocks and turn them to dust. While Jokhova delights in recalling where and when she collected the stones that top the object, there is nothing in these or their placement to describe the memories. If one thing is continual or inevitable, it is the misinterpretation of memories, the constant rereading of texts.