Meter Room, 58-64 Corporation Street, Coventry, West Midlands, CV11GF

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The Mobility Project at the Meter Room Gallery, review by Adele Mary Reed

The Mobility Project made it’s way from Berlin to Coventry’s up-and-coming Meter Room gallery, bringing with it eight refreshing interpretations of travel, movement and transport as well as immobility to address themes of the human journey. It is curated by Clarke Gallery which is run by Birmingham and Berlin based artist and photographer Elly Clarke. Each contributor collaborated with Clarke and each other to structure a lively exhibition in this previously disused Coventry City Council office space.

First to meet the visitor’s eye is Clarke’s piece ‘Five Minutes on the A23 (Berlin-Heide)’, 2009, a colour DVD with sound. Perched upon a minimal folding white chair placed in a doorway blocking pedestrian traffic into the main space, a television screen plays out a similar blockage in the form of a usually busy, high-speed route during a road jam. Lo-fi grey clouds loom above restless drivers, exiting their cars to respond to the suspension thrust upon their schedules. A quietly shared helplessness befalls the strangers who socially engage over the situation - creating a peculiarly peaceful yet tense atmosphere. Some characters resort to traipsing underneath the road barriers to escape, others wave frantically crying for help - but the most commonly shared behaviour is to avoid any eye contact, as if this unplanned sharing of space is something to fear.
Next on route is Kerstin Honeit’s projected colour DVD with sound entitled ‘Position #1’ made in Chicago and Berlin, during 2010 and 2008 respectively. A pair of scenes each featuring a single woman waiting on a sidewalk, one dressed in a large blue coat, the other in green, is presented to us as we watch from 70s style orange leather benches. The installation of old wooden speakers is as compact as the neatly framed inactivity of the women who narrate the role of prostitution in their corresponding neighborhoods. Honeit realised that the only people to be captured on Google street-view were the people who spent their time still, most notably female sex-workers waiting for their next client. This piece raises our awareness into the judgements we have been conditioned to make of women who stand stationery, gazing side to side, on a street corner for long lengths of time. To claim a spot in which to do nothing is so stigmatized that as a result we only find ourselves fully comfortable when in constant motion.
One then proceed to the main gallery area, a 1400 square foot space, with one of it’s four walls adorned in windows looking down onto a busy city center road of buses. London-based Simon Clark’s ‘Postcard Project’ maps a grid on the left-hand wall facing the windows. This masterful display of selflessness is contemporary art alive and mobilized, as Clark, in accordance with local traditions of centuries past, picked up 22 hand-written, addressed postcards without any postage paid from a barrel lying on a beach in Floreana, one of the Galapagos Islands now charmingly nicknamed Post Office Bay. He endeavoured to deliver each postcard intended for the UK to places as far and wide as Devon, London, Glasgow and Northern Ireland using trains and a bicycle as his only forms of transport. The ghost of each delivered postcard lingers with us in it’s reincarnation as printed copy, front of postcard and back, inviting us into the relationship triangle between sender, Clark, and receiver. The unique kindness and sheer vitality Clark embodied to provide the voluntary mobility needed to nurture the ties of his fellow travellers is truly inspiring, as we too get to witness the glee: “Today we saw tortoises in the wild. Everything is wonderful. The tropical heat, flowers, turquoise sea and our schooner.”
Painter Enda O’Donoghue, from Berlin, produced two pieces for the exhibition which speak less about human travel and more about the transition between technological and physical platforms. Sourcing lo-res digital images over the Internet for the piece ‘Black & White today’ (2011), O’Donoghue contacted the author and asked to interpret the pixels into 30x40cm canvasses. 12 canvasses are mounted to a wall in perfect four-by-three balance, concisely replicating the uniformity of code language, yet simultaneously highlighting the inevitability of flaws within painting and digital image compression. The second piece, ‘Wow, my stomach looks really great!’ (2010) comments on a worrying culture of innocently narcissistic teenage girls who pose in their mirrors to capture self-portraits presenting parts of themselves they deem necessary to sharing online with, potentially, the world.
We next meet Rebecca Pittam’s double video installation, a new addition to the project since it left Berlin and reached The Meter Room. Based in Coventry, the artist took off spontaneously on an escapist retreat to the American road. Titled ‘No Road Traveled Twice’ (2011), each computer monitor loops different 22’13 minute long high-definition views, one of the journeys ahead, the other the stationary view from inside her traveling vessel. It paradoxes stillness against movement and the idea of a journey being constantly in motion but the passenger staying solely in one place, one frame of mind, and discovering very little. The destination is the route, and what Pittam came to realise was that to truly explore is to experience the missed opportunities along the way - to run is to hide, and it is only by engaging with experiences that the truth can be found. One video shows a vast snowy landscape passing signs to small towns such as “Friendville”, the other an agitated driver, relentlessly seeking, chewing frantically, expressing a nervous, claustrophobic energy. Headphones accompany the work transporting you into Pittam’s mobile refuge, inviting you to begin to feel how she might feel.
Fedora Romita, originally from Toronto, attempts to bond with her adopted neighborhood of Berlin by making audio recordings of routes on the U and S Bahn train-lines. Her piece ‘For Informational Purposes Only’ consisting of five headphone, CD and mini cd-player sets chronicle the announcements, vehicle sounds, mumbling conversations, conflicts and merriment that take place daily on the city’s interlinking mobility system. The pieces ranges from 23:28 minutes to over an hour, and its drop-in drop-out design reflects the way the U Bahn is used by its passengers.
In a similar vein, making testament to where they have been is plan b, made up of Daniel Belasco Rogers and Sophia New both based in Berlin. Using GPS (global positioning system), the pair wear small tracking devices where ever they go and for this show they used graphite pencil to draw directly onto the gallery wall the piece, ‘All the Journeys we have made in the UK since 2007’. Incorporating performance, documentation, and illustration, plan b celebrate the simple art of movement across location, paying homage to each individual journey however small or large, and punctuate each chapter of their roamings by sharing it with the public.
Accompanying the exhibition, as in Berlin, a Panel Discussion event took place in the gallery, featuring all artists in the show, plus invited speaker Janneke Adema and Alfredo Cramerotti as curator-in-action, featuring performances lectures and an artist led tour of the exhibition.
Janneke Adema: ‘Reflections on open and mobile art. A Round Table Report’ - presented at panel discussion at Clarke Gallery exhibition
Simon Clark extract of Presentation at Clarke Gallery exhibition The Mobility Project at Meter Room, Coventry

Meta-meat-mobility - by Kym Ward by Clarke Gallery

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