Rivane Neuenschwander3. Oct - 30. Nov 08 / ended South London Gallery
Tuesday - Sunday 12pm - 6pm
For her solo exhibition at the South London Gallery, internationally acclaimed Brazilian artist Rivane Neuenschwander will completely transform the gallery space with a site-specific installation.
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by postcards 13.11.08 19:46
On the way into the large exhibition space at the South London Gallery is a wall-mounted analogue flip-clock calendar, where the black plates containing white numbers rotate mechanically in a smooth white plastic case. Here the day and the month, the words, are accurate, but the numbers are all set to zero â inside, then, the passage of time will be read differently, fluidly. It will be marked in the babbling language of odd chronometers.
Rivane Neuenschwander, a Brazilian artist based in Belo Horizonte, creates aesthetically delicate works that draw on the practices of sculpture, installation, sound, photography and film, with a lightness of touch and sensory appeal that she has termed âethereal materialismâ.
Neuenschwander has cleaved the tall space of the gallery in two, by inserting a huge pale wooden platform that meets the walls and acts as a first floor, accessible by a single staircase. It is buttressed from beneath by thick wooden beams that divide the dim space below into narrow corridors. This feels like the unofficial space behind a proscenium, but two films are projected against the walls in the half-light, claiming the space.
In her black and white film Inventario das pequenas mortes (sopro) (Inventory of small deaths [blow]), 2000, a collaboration with Cao GuimarÃ£es, the protean membrane of a large soap bubble drifts in high contrast against the Brazilian landscape, reflecting and distorting distant palm trees, buildings, and wide spaces in its surface. The deaths that are written are never seen â the existence of each bubble is held in suspension by the cutting to a new frame, and so through each generation it becomes a single melancholic and ghostly object that cannot die. Soap is a frequent material in her oeuvre â in 1999 she worked with collaboratively with a group of children and teenagers from ModaxÃ©, Brazil, using the coconut soap traditionally used by Afro-Brazilian women, to hand wash sheets as a performance, and lay them out in a grid on the shore to dry and whiten in the sun â an ancestral practice in Brazil called quarar. Her desire is to dignify the traditionally female domestic duties through redesignating them as elements of artistic practice, and to transform them using a state of play.
As I walked towards the projector containing the 16mm film-work Arabian Nights
it juddered into life, for the duration of my contemplation. The uncanny phenomenon of âthings watch usâ was demystified when I caught the gallery attendant with a slim white remote control. It is intended that it is running continuously, but the fragility of the medium means that it must be muted when it is not observed, in an act of preservation. The work borrows from the language of materialist film, with a simple punching out of 1001 holes from the celluloid strip, that projects an ephemeral flickering moon on the gallery wall. The number of holes refers to the task of Scheherezade, who invented a new tale each night to fight off her beheading by the King. Like the Inventory of small deaths each frame a separate gouge becomes a single flickering object through the lamp and motor whirr of the projector.
The space is filled up with the clanging sounds of drops of liquid breaking against metal surfaces, that swell and fade, mimicking the noise of heavy rainfall. Two naked bulbs mark and draw attention to points of contact with the world above the boards, and there is a microphone fixed to gather sounds from the belly of an anodized bowl that protrudes through the ceiling.
You emerge from the mouth of the stairwell into the brightly lit space beneath the glass roof of the gallery, to a much simpler and more open landscape. The artist has bored a continuous line of small holes into the gallery walls, just below eye height, whose dark circles at regular intervals echo and reverse the filmstrip in the space beneath, as an unfurled tempo in space. The dust from the drillings is gathered into a tiny fine-grained mountain range that looks like desert sands emerging out of the light wood of the floor, viewed from miles above. The domestic washing bowl that gathers a single timed drip from a translucent tube set in the frame of the glass ceiling punctuates the space with a slow rhythm, and is triggering the recordings downstairs. Muffled and distant, as they get more frenetic they begin to sound like drum beats or simple church bells, and the tempos bleed between the spaces.
There is a refined subtlety to Neuenschwanderâs work, drawing on a heavily narrative iteration of minimalist presentation, containing a poetic repetition of motifs that become echoes of each other, and function like the components of a machine space, of things and cyclic time registers held in suspension.