AboutIn The Room
Friday 16th May - Sunday 18th May 10am-6pm
Private view: Thursday 15th May 6pm - 8pm
The Rag Factory
16-18 Heneage Street (off Brick Lane)
London E1 5LJ
Rooms are more than just four walls; they are the significant stages for the taking place of our lives. They are sites of and for activity, constructed containers for events, occurrences, and relationships. A room may be a private space, for comfort and recollection, a place to be alone with oneself or to be intimate with others. They provide the frames in which we enact acts of love and togetherness, loss and loneliness. They are where we make our home, and can be varyingly a space of comfort and, at the extreme, claustrophobic and imprisoning.
To have room, or to make room, suggests our essential human requirement for a space to move, to grow, and to perform and interact. Rooms are social spaces, where we congregate, celebrate and participate. Our presence within such places leaves a trace - as if our histories are absorbed by the walls, the objects therein and even the space itself. Rooms, in this sense, are always haunted, and in them linger the spectres of our pasts. It is in this sense that I believe that the artists featured 'In The Room' go some way to give presence to these ghosts, to make them manifest within mixed-media and cross-disciplinary work and place them within the spaces of The Rag Factory in East London.
In The Room presents the work of five artists who explore myriad themes from their own individual perspectives, but as an exhibiting group, each practitioner seeks to record in some way the connection between body and bodies, places, objects and narratives. The works presented cross-over and complement each other, and together speak about and reveal the complexity of intimacy within a space in creative and intricate ways.
Emmo Zapata's remnants and recordings of brief encounters provide glimpses of the intimacy of sexual activity that took place and takes place within rooms, and in the specific work presented here, within the very rooms of the gallery itself. By removing the performing bodies, Zapata presents his audience with sound and objects from which we are to imagine what has taken place, replacing the explicitness of contemporary pornography with subtle, imaginative, rough eroticism and the power of suggestion. Zapata's pieces enable us to consider the elision of public and private acts, and raises questions about voyeurism and sex in the digital age.
In experimental sculptural work, artist Christine Parsons explores the intimate relation between self and body, and draws attention to the skin that is itself a room - a container for organs, bacteria, and living processes, as well as a space from which and onto which thoughts, perceptions and expectations are projected. By creatively exploring and manipulating the creases, folds and modulations of the body, Parsons combines the human and the material, the grotesque and the beautiful, the strange and the mundane in abject works that reveal and sometimes conceal the exquisite craft of the artist. Parsons asks us to consider the body as something that is always in a state of change, a process of decay, and subject to manipulations by nature and those we impose on our bodies ourselves.
Performer and artist Emma Wells explores the domestic environment as narrative space. Questioning the home as a site of warmth and protection, she alludes to the violence of domesticity and the tensions that frequently linger - as both expectation and aftermath. As the artist herself states, her work is about 'the silence before the slap', and draws attention - through objects, sound and image - to the domestic space as a potential prison within which individuals and couples can become somewhat entrapped and forced into the repetitive performance of acts of violence on themselves and their others. In Wells' work, the ordinary is rendered uncanny, and seemingly mundane, everyday objects become sinister - re-imagined as weapons; as evidence from some disturbing crime scene.
In experimental print and textile work, artist Malcom Bullivant draws on everyday, intimate objects, (in this exhibition the handkerchief) as a both an artistic surface on which to work and a conceptual tool to allude to traces, marks and stains. His works are remnants, receptacles for memories, where intimate encounters are wiped, smeared and recorded on the fabrics of our lives and loves. In this context, they seemingly become flags - memorabilia of past loves, and bring to mind the waving of the white handkerchief - as an act of submission, or, more romantically, in departing after a brief encounter.
Amanda Morrison looks to the room as a space of fleeting presence and absence, as a space in which past presences linger. For Morrison, the rooms of the home are containers for objects; and the objects themselves totemic containers: within our everyday possessions, the contents with which we fill rooms, linger the people and pasts that were once lived. Her exploration of such objects - keepsakes, gifts, heirlooms - allude to how the very stuff of life has the ability to absorb human beings, like lamps occupied by benign genies, or the contents of shrines for unknown or forgotten individuals. Morrison's often ethereal work is both tender and haunting, and draws attention to the seemingly universal compulsion to collect and keep safe the possessions of family, friends, and, in terms of lost property, those of complete strangers
Finally, In the Room is about presence, the state of being in a place together and, paradoxically, it is about the absent, forgotten or disavowed - the elephant in the room is always ignored, but its presence is felt as a weight, a lingering presence, and an atmosphere. In this show, the artists invite you yourself to be in the room with them, in the presence of their evocative and intriguing work, and experience the presences and absences, sounds and silences, that are evoked within their practice.
Ian Tucknott (April 2014)