Desire's Smoking Gun

11 Sep 2008 – 18 Oct 2008

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Whitecross Gallery

London, United Kingdom


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  • Barbican / Old Street
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Desire's Smoking Gun


CutUp; Neil Zakiewicz; Maria Clemen; Craig Fisher; Nina Fowler; Emi Miyashita; Giuseppe Di Bella; Ronnie Lee Slack; Michael Buckley & Alexis Jahiel; Helen Murphy Connecting the public face of crime with private desire, this exhibition brings together a variety of works to explore the glamorisation and external politics of street crime and war, while at the same time seeking to evoke emotional responses to questions of morals, internal battles with temptation, and personal choices about pleasure and pain. Michael Buckley & Alexis Jahiel, Craig Fisher and Maria Clemen each lead us into fantastical B-movie crime scenes where weapons are decorated with bank notes, and made of absurd materials such as sugar and sequins. Their glistening surfaces and seductive camouflage lures viewers into the dark flip side of western glamour. Power and money, perhaps the two things most commonly desired, are brought to mind by these loaded icons. We are invited via Emi Miyashita's miniature drawings, to experience her voluptuous landscapes of plenitude, to bathe on mountains of desire…. before we get stabbed in the back and our dreams turn into nightmares. Ronnie Lee Slack uses outlandishly exaggerated scale to create larger than life outlaws, while Neil Zakiewicz's ‘King Size' match heads seem to be warning ‘Light it and you're dead' from their dying embers, reminding us of the flame of desire that smoulders within. The issue of smoking, whether it be cigarettes or cocaine, bears witness to the fine line between pleasurable habit and criminal sin. As Amy Winehouse is depicted in Nina Fowler's etching, smoking crack in front of a picture of herself and Blake in better times, are we not reminded of our own bygone eras and unfulfilled dreams? Why do we always end up at Nick's café.... is it the wind that kind of pushes us that way? And just what is it about the image of rogues, villains, whores and assassins that lure us into their debauched underworld and beckon us with temptation? In considering such a question we may be drawn to conclude that everything that gives us pleasure also gives us pain to measure it by. Helen Murphy takes us on a nostalgic trip into Bonny and Clyde territory, where the holographic effect of her multilayered organza prints provide a means to highlight the one dimensional nature of much of the received ‘wisdom' that shapes our thoughts, hopes and fears. In response to Deleuze and Guattari's assertion that it is through the liberation of desire that we can be freed from the mental fetters that have imprisoned our thinking, we are prompted to question just which are our own desires and which are those inculcated by the media and other influences? Or is it not possible to separate ourselves from the environment surrounding us? Urban intervention into channels of media/advertising is a tactic employed by CutUp, whereby they have literally cut up and rearranged a billboard outside the gallery to communicate an altogether different message… a disaster scene, reminiscent of the 9/11 images. To finish on a serious note, Giuseppe Di Bella confronts viewers with issues of complicity, as he investigates the way we consume mass media images, particularly those with violent content. By printing Abu Ghraib images onto stamps and posting them around the world he has rendered the sadomasochistic and perverted abuses of power depicted within them all the more shocking, as they are supposedly condoned by the Queen's head and stamp of approval accompanying them. God Save the Queen, we may lament…. and God save ours souls.


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