On entering Arcadia Missa, a single railway arch in Peckham, we are asked to either remove our shoes or wear blue plastic shoe covers in order to protect the grey carpeting that covers the floor. While a practicality, this is December after-all, the consequence is that everyone entering must choose to pad about the space barefoot or to rustle over the works like a forensic analyst. Because of the abstract physicality of the works and depending on the manner in which your feet meet the floor, the gallery is then transformed into either a crime scene or a fetish room.
The sculptures that make up Penny Goring’s solo show ‘Damaged Gods’ resemble dismembered limbs. Some explicitly refer to naked legs, vaginas and bum-holes, others are more abstract limb-like constructions, tactile fabric tubes squeezed together or shaped as totems and way-signs. There are other, smaller objects here too: small blue eyeless rabbits made of wool, worn-looking silk dolls laid out on a shelf like gloves with bright buttons and beads for bushes. On the walls too are sections of a white picket fence. This is a landscape where the borders between public and private have been violently cut away.
There is an element of the cult suggested by the words that are stitched on to a few of the sculptures. The one that most resembles an object of worship bears words that act as a form of incantation. For all its soft-furnished domesticity there is something of the temple in the space: a temple to the erotic implied by the contorted and dismembered limbs. Inanimate lust and fetish items invite eroticism without boundaries: the objects are faceless so desire can be guilt-free.
The anonymity of desire is reflected in the poem that accompanies the show, a block of text identifying body parts of people; “Cervix of an artist. Curious coldness of a dead penis. Womb of a witch.” This text appeared previously in the artist’s work, in a video where a woman’s voice sings the words over an inset recording of a young girl dancing. It is part of a series of poem objects that use collage, video, sound and still images. Much of Goring’s work appears online. It is here that she shows her concern with the language of performance and sculpture and how artists are agitating the definitions of poetry. Language is a material that can form the central part of sculpture; an object or image can be linguistic without the use of words.
The text we’re given, then, rather than merely an accompaniment is really key to the cohesion of the show. Without it the sculptures have no purpose other than objects; with it they become participants in a world filled with other ‘damaged gods’. Beginning with the small footwear adjustment we have to make as we enter, the exhibition is less a gallery space in which sculptures have been placed, and more an alternate linguistic world that we have entered.