Karin Kihlberg & Reuben Henry: Abandon In Place

17 Sep 2010 – 24 Oct 2010

Danielle Arnaud

London, United Kingdom


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This touring exhibition brings together a series of new works which engage in the reconstruction of narrative continuum, proposing operation in a narrative time which is physically affected by memory and history, and where past and future are reconstituted as present. The video Inbindable Volume (2010) takes the viewer through a journey around the brutalist space of an empty library interior. The three screens of the work communicate in a rhythmic and textural visual grammar, driven by the voice of an omnipresent narrator who describes the lifespan of a building from conception to abandonment through a text which skips unsettlingly between past, present and future tense. The drive of the work juxtaposes the concrete and finished state of the building with perspectives which shift in time, simultaneously placing it in non-material states, as ideology or object of history. This juxtaposition is also present in the mass of books in the library, which embody the imagined spaces alluded to within them as they defy their physicality in a finale of eerily advancing bookcases. This draws a parallel, perhaps, to Jorge Luis Borges' short story The Library of Babel, in which the author imagines an infinite number of hexagonal libraries containing books with every possible ordering of letters, spaces, and punctuation marks, a decidedly physical space contradicted by the sheer mass of information held within it. This Story is About a Little Boy (2010) is a reconstruction of a film according to its recollection through subjective memory. A friend of the artists was asked to recall a film which had made an impression on his life. His recollection of The Fallen Idol by Carol Reed was recorded and used by the artists as the narrative structure to re-edit the visuals of the film. Confusions, alterations, hesitations and added events were reanimated in the reconstruction to capture the visual ambiguities of re-representing memory. While in one sense film footage acts as source material against which a (visual) memory can be tested - not least in terms of the narrative structure - the film's reconstruction places the original footage at the disposal of the speaker, forming to his words and thoughts as if it were an inherent visual element of his speech process, embodying the relationship between personal memories with the filmic and fictive. Acting Dead (2008-10) is a series of drawings depicting actors acting dead in films. The drawings function as renditions of a fictive event, but engage in the tradition of the life study as a means to remove them from the familiar occurrence of death within filmic narrative. While death is commonplace in films, such close-ups, where the camera lingers on the face of the diseased, are rare, as directors prefer instead the narrative tradition of following the story of those who are left behind. Using the traditional technique of drawing as a means to understand, to see and to observe the seriousness of what can be defined as an ultimate truth of life, the images are placed at odds with their fictive origins and their narrative function. The exhibition shares its name with a sculpture in steel reinforced concrete cast with an aggregate of meteorite. Abandon in Place (2010) takes the form of an architect's maquette, but formed of the stuff of buildings and viewed from below, teasing a line between building and sculpture. The work is formed of two interlocking parts: the upper part resembling the upturned ziggurat of Birmingham Central Library, the city's most infamous example of brutalist architecture, due for demolition in 2013, and where Inbindable Volume was filmed. This ziggurat is cradled upon a structure resembling the Apollo 1 launch pad, a utilitarian single-use structure which has been retained for monumental purposes after the launch's catastrophic failure. As if it were vulnerable to arbitrary removal by ill-informed demolition workers, the launch pad is marked with the words ‘Abandon in Place'. Inspired by this phrase, the work proposes a radical action for an important building as the Central Library, its lifespan now limited by inner city development plans, to have concrete poured into its doors and windows to transform building into sculpture, retaining it as a monument both to it's successes and its failures. While the title of the exhibition suggests a relationship with physical geography, its use here extends as a dual proposition to ‘abandon in time', and to engage in a narrative time that is perhaps closer to a subconscious narrative time that is immune to the desire to subject time to regularity.


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