The Atlantic Project: After the Future
28 September - 21 October, 2018
Review by Eva Szwarc
Over the course of three weeks, a variety of unusual sites throughout Plymouth have been transformed into exhibition spaces, from pedestrianised streets and dilapidated buildings to shop-front windows, as part of The Atlantic Project: After The Future, a pilot biennial for the South West region.
Across The Atlantic Project, a thoughtful dialogue between installation and environment addresses the evolving function of the city. This is most effectively presented in Carl Slater’s ‘Echoic Candy (4-Bar)’. The work, consisting of projection and sound, is situated within Millennium Complex, previously incarnated during the 1980s and 1990s as the Warehouse nightclub. Placed in the middle of what would have been the dance floor, a projection loops a wide range of clips from stock footage to psychedelic imagery once used for the Warehouse’s own stage projections. The accompanying sound work incorporates audio recordings of parties held at the Warehouse in 1991, reworked by techno producer Paul Birken. Opposite the projection, another screen presents images exclusively drawn from video documentation of a club night however the footage is intentionally obscured by the artist. The work draws attention to the layers of time the work weaves together, paying homage to the collective experience the building contained only two decades before.
On the second floor, Ryoji Ikeda presents ‘The Radar’, a mesmerizing projection whereby highly calibrated visuals plot coordinates of the cosmos against an encompassing backdrop, while a digital heartbeat beeps and rings in sync. This man-made mapping creates an immersive, even celestial, experience for the viewer showing the past, present and future all at the same time.
Similarly, a parallel can be drawn from the idea of encapsulating the future, present and the past in Donald Rodney’s ‘Psalms’, at Plymouth Council House. The autonomous wheelchair gives presence to the artist in absentia, who passed away from sickle cell anaemia in 1998 a year after completing the work. It pauses then crosses the floor; it’s movements seem unpredictable but considered, however it is programmed to consider its surrounding and possible obstructions. The chair acts as a de facto agent for Rodney’s body and mind, continuing his occupation of and interaction within our reality.Through this, the artwork connects both past with future, physical with digital realities, allowing Rodney to continually subsist in the present.
Material identity is also a central theme to Liu Chuang’s ongoing project, ‘Buying Everything on You’, which began in 2005 in a labour market in Shenzhen. Chuang approached people searching for jobs and asked to purchase everything they had in their possession for an exhibition. These items are on display at House of Fraser and reads as a physical inventory, a faceless portrait, of the person’s life: shoes, a key-ring, clothing, paperwork, underwear, a mobile phone, ID photographs. ‘Buying Everything on You’ challenges our understanding between possessions and identity and subverts what we hold personal back into the realm of commerce. What we may consider sentimental is clinically laid out as artefacts: the results of a financial transaction in a time of accelerated globalisation.
And it is this lasting thought on globalisation and its consequences where The Atlantic Project emerges, encouraging a discussion regarding what the future entails for us, not just within the role of artists, but within our community and city. Once a site from where global voyages departed - from Francis Drake and James Cook to the Pilgrim Fathers and first slave trader John Hawkins - Plymouth’s landscape was built on questionable grounds, only to be lost extensively during the Blitz. Post-war, architectural visions for the future built the city anew, though the rebuilt structures now lie dormant or run the risk of becoming so. The Atlantic Project inserts itself into the very fabric of this landscape with an incredible array of work, that echoes both the past and anticipating, albeit with a sense of trepidation, our unknown future.