Rachel Reupke: Wine & Spirits
Cell Project Space, London
13 September - 27 October 2013
Review by Maru Rojas
Rachel Reupke has created two new works for this exhibition at Cell Project Space. The first, a 20-minute HD video titled ‘Wine & Spirits’ reconceptualises the language of advertising. A man and a woman, always the same actors but playing different characters, sit opposite each other, a few pint glasses the only things mediating their encounter. They are most likely on a date and the setting each time is a nondescript pub or bar, mostly bare and rid of common pub paraphernalia. The camera’s angle is fixed, creating the illusion that we’re possibly looking at a still image - a 2D piece of advertising. This feeling is reiterated by the long stares and awkward silences between the characters and by the ubiquitous pint glasses present in every scene.
Reupke has again resorted to boredom as a humorous device, but in her work humour functions as a critical tool. The shots and angles are held for too long, so long in fact that there’s nothing else to look at, nothing in the scene is entertaining anymore and this leads to the awareness that you must be looking at a joke. The punch line sometimes takes the form of written dialogue on the screen - sometimes undeniably funny, sometimes just slightly coarse - and occasionally it eludes you.
‘Wine & Spirits’ explores how advertising and marketing language permeates and influences everything we look at - be it print or moving image - and how this saturation of the media leads to our submersion in it until we forget to question it. We accept the meta-narratives, the content and the aesthetics; we have surrendered. Everything is normal. Reupke makes this normality evident, forcing the viewer to look at it twice. By keeping the pauses in conversation, the long silences and nervous stares that are often edited out in TV and advertising, she re-presents normality.
There is an indelible underlying sense of ‘Britishness’ to be found beyond the obvious pint glasses or pub setting. You can’t exactly put a finger on it, but it’s in their body language, the feeling that alcohol is needed to ease conversation, the awkward stares and the time spent looking at the bottom of the by now, almost empty pint glass. After all, what could be more British than two people meeting up for a drink’
Reupke’s other work at Cell Project Space is ‘Nonic’, consisting of 24 images of half-empty and half-full pint glasses drawn digitally. Less engaging than her video work, the drawings function to complement it, reminding us of the constant presence of alcohol in social circumstances and every day life. They too have become a sign of normality, and like the shots held a minute too long, they become boring. And once again we find ourselves missing the punch line.