Two fried eggs turn into two Waffen stylised S’s. They dance fiendishly to Tears For Fears’ ‘Everybody Wants to Rule The World’, then settle down and spell “Sunny Side Up”. An image of Hitler pops up and the text now reads, “We all like to have a little fun don’t we Adolf?”. Josephine Flynn’s video works carry with them the nausea you might find in a dusty corner of Reddit, or even in the most innocent of Google image searches and also the gleeful crudeness of an adolescent manipulating MS Paint for the first time. This work forms part of a group show that delves into the structures, exchanges and mechanisms that manifest in the gallery space, and refreshingly, the main recourse in EXHIBITION is not bloated theory, but humour.
EXHIBITION is initiated by a new performance for two actors, written and directed by Tim Etchells. The work titled ‘It’s moving from I to It – The Play’, rather than being an addition to EXHIBITION, acts as a catalyst and begins to present the core themes running throughout the works featured. Etchells considers the role and position of the host and guest and how these assumed positions can take hegemonic patterns, reinforcing existing structures.
CIRCA Projects who have curated EXHIBITION, show great self-awareness regarding the location of exhibition in a commercial gallery, Workplace Gallery, with international presence. However, the gallery’s presence in the ‘art world’ might be seen to be at odds with its actual geographical location. The gallery sits on a Gateshead street in the shadow of a hulking complex of shops and student accommodation that embody the most cynical hangover of Cabe-ism. This kind of friction is something EXHIBITION does not shy away from, and whilst it never aggressively rattles the bars of the art world, it is content to pull faces and gurn with gusto.
The selection of artists compliment the show’s trajectory by employing satire, wit and physical comedy communicated through art objects. Matt Crawley’s ‘Wet Chair’ (2014) places the disembodied invigilator into the space, with their damp seated annoyance only being matched by their probable boredom. Keith Farquhar’s selection of flat-pack sculptures operate as object and audience depending on their situation, and Henry Coombes logistical odyssey sees him subjected to the whims of an unsympathetic art transport company? and a gallerist that channels a warped professional pride reminiscent of Steve Coogan in ‘The Bureau’ segment of The Day Today. Coombes’ mounting crises and disappointments are only saved by an apparition of ‘Mr Photorealism’, who takes the form of a naked, elderly, Scottish man donning a crown of pencils.
Susie Green’s contribution to EXHIBITION takes the form of a metal fly curtain. Separating the public space of the gallery from the private ‘sales room’ this physical barrier acts as a reminder of the varying contexts that different environments prompt. Green’s barrier also carries the detritus of sordid negotiations that we might imagine taking place in such a ‘sales room’, with luxury car providers’ business cards and contraception compounding that mucky feeling. Green also leads a performance/life drawing class as part of EXHIBITION’s event programme. ‘Fluid Medium’ sees Green oscillate between model, teacher and critic, leading her, and the audience to move between active and passive states.
EXHIBITION is certainly not a one liner. Its’ satire is developed through performance, art objects, the catalogue, invitation and each person crossing the threshold of the exhibition space. André Breton wrote that, “Humor (is) the process that allows one to brush reality aside when it gets too distressing.” Here humour is not escapism, it is instead a considered process of transparency. The art world is not the butt of a joke, but the protagonist, antagonist and setting.