Three adjustable bathroom mirrors are mounted on to the gallery wall, casting shimmering patterns that alter according to weather conditions and the time of day. The work, ‘Refräcktions’, by Ned Pooler, opens an exhibition which considers, both broadly and highly specifically, the mechanics and philosophies of the viewing condition. The exhibition, co-conceived with André de Jong, investigates how sense might be constructed through sight in relation to rhythms within thinking, looking and reading processes. Equally important within the two artists’ works is consideration of how the body orients itself in relation to the gallery, domestic environments and, in particular, public space.
Opposite Pooler’s mirrors are a series of seven texts by de Jong pasted directly on to the wall. At first glance, these look like repeated statements. In fact they are a series of variations on the exhibition text produced by Derek Horton. de Jong’s manipulations of Horton’s essay are based on the Oulipo group’s ‘N+7’ rule, in which all nouns are replaced by the seventh noun that follows it in the dictionary. As reading and comprehension are playfully disrupted, new meanings emerge as others are obscured, lost:
mirror > misapplication
misapplication > misapprehension
misapprehension > miscarriage
miscarriage > miscellany
miscellany > mischief-maker
Such linguistic jumps recall the ‘parallax’ phenomenon from which the exhibition draws its title: the displacement of an object dependent on viewpoint, as happens when an object is viewed with one eye closed and then the other. Etymologically, ‘Parallaxis’ is rooted in the relation of perspective to time as well as space. Just as we consider the relationship of each of de Jong’s texts to the next and the rhythms set up in the reading of them, Pooler’s works made from multiple components reflect something of this way of looking.
The wall-based installation ‘Knockout’ is composed of fragments of a former shop sign reassembled by Pooler. From each fragment sense is made in relation to the other constituent parts. If each fragment is a beat or a moment in time, the repetition of other beats marks out a rhythm: a way to make sense from all the noise of the world. The language of public-realm advertising plays out several times within the exhibition. The gallery plays host to a variety of messages that are mapped out, broken up and transformed by re-orientation, a notion that harks back to the geographical implication of the ‘axis’ in ‘Parallaxis’.
Pooler’s work typically begins with photographic processes. Momentary refractions and reflections on surfaces are captured in another ‘moment’ within the frame of the photograph. Pooler’s interest in surface is apparent in a series of new paintings titled ‘Squeegee(s)’ that take reference from transparent plastic screen protectors and commercial vinyl graphics, especially when these thin layers are applied inexpertly. Paint has been applied loosely to the ground of these paintings and plastic sheets layered on top. These have been partially smoothed out with a domestic squeegee, limiting Pooler’s control of the media and the finished work. Air bubbles and ripples trapped in these glossy surfaces obscure and interrupt the viewing process, a notion that connects quite directly to de Jong’s works including ‘Untitled’, a series of risograph-printed photographs barely adhered to the wall. The peeling photographs depict various architectural peculiarities: the experimental model town, Poundbury in Dorset, built in 1989; the Neoclassical façade of Birmingham Snow Hill train station subsumed into Brutalist architectural design; advertisements for fibre glass columns; the sixteenth-century Golden Lion Hill pub, relocated to Birmingham’s Cannon Hill Park in 1911 and now clad in scaffolding. Each of these images is pasted upside down: their ‘original’ inverted like the image on the lens of a camera or an eye. Readability is disrupted. With each moment that passes, the images move further and further from their ‘original’: simulacra made manifest.
Pooler’s photographic starting points, and more explicitly, de Jong’s photographs are underpinned by multiple philosophies of image making and consumption. The boundlessness of digital imagery as noted by artist and academic Daniel Rubinstein and revisions to Walter Benjamin’s eponymous text, now considered, not in terms of mechanical reproduction but of technological reproducibility are noted by de Jong and made clear in the navigation of this exhibition. The largest work on display, de Jong’s ‘Now-here’, is made up of a several components. The design of a wooden structure is derived from an overly engineered billboard. A blackboard is attached to this structure and a photograph of public benches overlooking a building site, with a beautiful landscape beyond, is affixed to the wall behind it. The positioning of these mean the structure obscures much of the landscape, just as the building works obscure the scenic view.
View obscures view, artwork overlaps artwork, our field of vision is overlapped by each of our two eyes and moments are played out in relation to other moments. Readability is ruptured repeatedly. In ‘Parallaxis’, reproducible beats in the rhythms of viewing and the making of sense are re-composed into new scores, time and time again.