SONDRA PERRY: TYPHOON COMING ON @ SERPENTINE SACKER GALLERY
emoji summary: 🌊 ➿ 👃🏾
I am sure it’s not j me that thinks the face of post-internet art feels overwhelmingly white. i mean, overwhelmingly white and overwhelmingly male. I am sure i am sure, it is a regular criticism of it all - this idea of making around the ~internet~ as a new(ish, comparatively) space - the idea that this space is any different from the space of the real world n fleshy bodies. It is not. I say all this bc truly my favourite thing is seeing practitioners of colour engaging w the discourse n meaty leg of post-internetisms ,,, the theory (Aria Dean did some good words) the work, the air around it alllllll. I was ill the week I came to see Sondra Perry’s show: Typhoon coming on @ the Serpentine Sackler. I had a cold, and a cough, and i felt like i should j be in bed,,, eating soup n staying warm only. Bodies are frail and perishable, i wish there was an alternative; that we could do away with them n just be ghosts or disembodied voices. I only ever remember my body in its failings (i am a terrible pessimist sometimes). I was reminded of my body and the space it takes up in my life when i went to see this show. Snot streaming down my face from the cold,,,, i walked into the gallery, happy to be warm t b h.
U walk in n u meet a blue chroma key wall,,, that colour of hyperlinks n transparent screen space, i slipped past it,,, didn’t pay it any mind bc off to the side across the wall round to the back was a floor to ceiling projection along both the long side walls. A shifting shimmering sea,, creamy pale and endless. Like the backdrop to a dream,,, n then it shifted purple and dark and the light in the entire space shifted n i felt this deep hum in my chest like,,, i knew i felt something. just everything dropped a bit, i changed my posture,,, v moody n affecting in such a small, spreading way. There was also a film in the back room of the gallery; a flat screen mounted up against another full screen projection; large and sprawling, abstract but bodily. Like colonoscopy footage but folded in on itself, idk which part of the body it was, but i knew it was of The Inside Of A Person. The screen was playing a film made up of jumbled clips,, found footage, shot footage, police body cams, a woman sat on a sofa on her phone (she’s watching Eartha Kitt sing on a box screen, fisheye, zoom). I liked this film I think, bc i didn’t object to it. It didn’t excite me, i didn’t feel much next to it. But I was watching everything behind a hazy wall of my own phlegm and snot and body stuff. watching the rolling footage of another person’s insides across the far wall was making me dizzy. I felt like i was being pulled and stretched out of both sides the room by the purple projections outside; all too much, too focused, too quiet, too far. The film was good but it felt like i was watching it thru a pane of glass or at the end of a long tunnel. i waited patiently for it to loop before i went into the front room.
The front room was fucking excellent. As I walked in i shit u not, my nose cleared. Maybe it was the art, maybe it was being sat down and then standing up; but i breathed in deep through my nose for the first time in a bit. Felt some air, fresh and new. A Very Different Atmosphere. Where the back room felt close and tight; this space was nicely fitted. Sparse in a good balanced way. Two v industrial looking exercise machines sat facing each other from across the room. The first one an exercise bike with 3 screens fitted in front of it. I got on, started pedalling as I watched the film. the same chroma blue; hazy, slipping in and out of focus,,, a 3d modelled avatar,,, matte, plastic, smooth. I was too preoccupied pedalling and breathing through my nose to pay attention properly to what the avatar was saying, i remember enjoying the film; laughing out loud at one point, with the headphones on my head, furiously pedalling. The other one, a rowing machine. This one was probably my fave; j bc of the stickiness and the feeling of it all. 3 screens set up in front of the rowing machine. As I got on to start rowing, the invigilator intercepted me and gave me a (tbh prolonged and awkward) explanation of what was going on here. The rowing machine had hair gel (called Wet ’n’ Wavy) in the lil turbine thing to make it harder to row. He was keen to point out that “this is a hair gel that, i have heard, is very popular amongst the black community”. I blinked, breathing, blinked again, started rowing with the headphones on. a similar but maybe faster or more condensed shimmering abstract sea spread across the 3 screens. The invigilator had kinda spoiled the plot for me; telling me it was a reference around JMW Turner’s paintings of that sinking slave ship; the slavers threw the dead and the dying captive bodies overboard. I didn’t rly mind about the spoiler tho. It j kinda was, and i let it be. It dictated its terms to me and i dutifully followed. It was small, peaceful, intensely demanding. I liked that I was made to work, to participate, but participate alone with headphones on in both instances. It demanded my labour and a specific isolation;;; that i stare the work in the face on its own terms.
Of this show, I rly rly liked its smallness and specificity. There was no grand conceptual narrative (in a good way) no reverse engineering, no sweeping statements;;; only genuine interest, enquiry, unpicking in the smallest gesture. It was a soft touch for a large large weight. the two exercise machines, in the front room, facing each other and demanding the viewer come to meet them; i wish this work was in another gallery maybe,, somewhere else. I wish it was all in one room, uninterrupted. I rly respected it. I was glad for its insistence bc of the artist’s identity and the backdrop it stood against. On the way there, i had seen the press images n I thought to myself “I am glad to be seeing some black post-internet art”; well i fucking didn’t. It wasn’t rly either in the way u expect it to be. Not neat, flat, all smooth edges like a perfect long pebble or something u could hold in ur hands. The work had rough edges, like when u walk over a sticky patch of floor in a bar, or tbh what i want ➿ to mean, like those menthol crystals n how u don’t expect them to feel waxy or soft. A kink in ur hair from when u put it in a ponytail n take it out later. Skilful in the way it balanced its form and material & manipulated how it was looked at. I remembered my body in this labour, this exchange where I gave the artwork something as it gave to me too;;; intense and solitary reciprocity. This show felt well settled but complex, airwaves gum, a solid decongestant.
Sondra Perry's show Typhoon coming on is on at Serpentine Sackler till 20th May.