The first Act of an ongoing project entitled Nearly Winning, the show is the culmination of Revital Cohen and Tuur Van Balen’s Stanley Picker Fine Art Fellowship. Imagining the exhibition as an organism, the artists bring together the exhausted body of a thoroughbred horse, the soil upturned through geopolitical voodoo, the blinking lights forming a space for irrational thinking, the song of sirens, the demise of a linear future.
Taking inspiration from Brown and Venturi’s ‘Learning from Las Vegas’ as much as Brian O’Doherty’s ‘Inside the White Cube’ – both examining how spaces are conferred symbolic meaning and structures – the exhibition is arranged as a space in which the lighting, sound, scent and atmosphere all follow subliminal strategies prompting self-delusion as a way of seeing.
A trance-like soundscape hangs in the air, oxygen levels are raised as the lights occasionally break into blinking patterns echoing the ‘siren song’ of a slot machine display. A scent commissioned from a marketing company to signify a successful exhibition overlays musk with synthetic molecules that mimic human pheromones and the stress-like smell of the Dead Horse Arum Lily.
The new film-work The Odds (part 1) brings together footage from a ‘knockdown room’ – the room in a horse hospital in which racehorses are anaesthetised and collapse on ketamine – a showgirls’ casting call for a casino in Macau belonging to the world’s biggest political donor, and the architecture of a bingo hall originally built as a cinema designed like a Russian church. Produced specifically for a large LED screen, the work uses the LEDs as both light display and video screen as the footage is overlaid with pulsating light formations, inspired by Vegas techniques of visual seduction. Drawing from apophenia – a psychiatric term to describe the tendency to mistakenly perceive connections and meaning between unrelated things or patterns in random information – the film fragments and layers are programmed to appear in a random order. The resulting assemblage is eternally based on luck, and responsive to the other elements in the space.
On the other side of the gallery a constellation of sculptures contains two sculptures made from scans of bodies of thoroughbred racehorses (The Fall, 2019), glass replicas of one of the artists’ eyes existing somewhere between commodities and amulets (The Opening, 2019), casino chips made in China from clay dug out in Jerusalem (The Circuit, 2019), while ribbon banners, hanging in the space, reproduce the jockey colours of the horses who lent their names to this exhibition (The Visit, 2019); one which became a stud farm breeding stallion and the other which collapsed on the racing track.