Mark Peter Wright
2 November - 2 December 2012
Review by Yvette Greslé
Disorientation: a watery landscape moves with some urgency in a 360 degree, 30 minute loop. We register grey water, shifts of light, and, in the distance, the barely discernible markers of habitation and industrial labour. Sound fills the room. Birdsong: familiar, ubiquitous chirping and the singular, precise squawking of gulls. Other sounds remain ambiguous. Occasionally the sounds in the street outside blur with those inside confusing us. We close our eyes and listen more attentively. We hear water lapping up against shores, those we have visited, and those represented for us in the gestures of others. We see rocks, pebbles and the familiar detritus of 21st-century coastlines. On the floor are two piles: rocks, driftwood, seaweed but also slag, and on each pile a speaker cone. The slag, a by-product of industrial smelting, demands that we think about the meaning of the place we see in front of us. This is no innocent view, and its banal ordinariness simply veils what we do not yet know. The speaker cones appear incongruous, slightly ridiculous. But their presence pushes us to think about listening. We are accustomed to thinking about the politics of looking. Listening too is a political, critical act. It is mediated by what it is we choose to hear, to foreground, to excise and to obscure. ‘Around #1’ is one in a series of new works by Mark Peter Wright.
The works explore South Gare in North Yorkshire, which came into existence between 1861 and 1884. South Gare is a 2.5 mile stretch of reclaimed land, a breakwater between the North Sea and the Tees Mouth Harbour. Researching ‘the Gare’ produces a narrative that reaches from 19th-century industrialisation to 21st-century global economies. The area contains approximately 5 million tons of slag from 19th-century blast furnaces, and today it is the site of the Sahaviriya Steel Industries. Apparently, alongside all this industrial activity the coastline has a thriving natural habitat.
In the video ‘There are no Signs’ we see disused signs - rusted and damaged, their texts are illegible and obscured by age. They stand incongruous in overgrown grassy landscapes, which both conceal and reveal waste. As we look, we hear sounds from the video in the adjacent room: ‘Here & There’ is a dual projection, in which we see the repeated figure of a man. His body is cropped - cut off at the shoulders - and so we cannot see his face. We are told it is Wright. Playing with dislocations of time and place, Wright repeats an action: at the gallery, and at South Gare. He bangs together two pieces of slag. The sound is repetitive, asymmetrical and insistent. It speaks of protest and the anger that produces it. Wright demands that we listen as much as we look. In an art world dominated by discourses about looking and visuality Wright’s work asks us to think more carefully about sound: its history, its politics, and its particular materiality.