Review by Mihaela Varzari
Vanessa Billy’s second solo show ‘Who Shapes What’ at Limoncello Gallery initially begins an investigation into semiotics and perception through its unconventional press release. Drawing upon Francis Ponge’s enquiry of ‘Sliding With Things’ (1942) and his approach towards symbolism, we are simply asked how to define a pebble if in doing so one has to make reference to the ineffable concept of a stone. Indeed the exhibition unfolds as an exploration of our perceptions, through a presentation of substantial materials and implications, which waver on the verge of the ephemeral.
Entering the exhibition space, passage is unexpectedly channelled by two flat, rectangular patches of sand on the floor titled ‘Glass Ceiling Once’ and ‘Glass Ceiling Twice’, immediately initiating a dialogue with the audience by demanding our attention not to step over, but confront it. ‘Weight, Appearance, Expectation and Neighbour’ is a training mat and ball, painted black and sitting in one corner. Easy to miss is a sleeve carrying debris, hanging from the ceiling and ‘Horizontality/Verticality’, which depicts two black and white ‘60’s style, and seemingly found, photographs. An elderly man and woman handle a blow up doll, or the life size picture of a young woman, over a hole in the ground that appears to be a grave. Puzzled and nevertheless amused, one moves across the rather small gallery space to watch the video ‘Hands Bar’ featuring a female gymnast training on professional flexible training bars.
‘Who Shapes What’ comprises of eleven pieces in total, arranged as a treasure hunt-like game, each possessing their own raison d’etre and yet sparking off each other. Through poetic association with found objects, Billy’s show triggers analysis of our perceptions - the way we have been taught to think and respond, and the logic that exists prior to experience. The work here presents a plea for sustained consideration as a way to ‘see’ in order to make the invisible visible, and to encourage one to go beyond conventional meanings and values ascribed to matter. The exhibited ‘objects’ are memory carriers, working as reminders of the past, but nevertheless obstructing progression. Such a hindrance reflects media theorist Marshall McLuham’s influential dictum ‘We look at the present through a rear-view mirror. We march backwards into the future.’