THE SHARE OF OPULENCE; DOUBLED; FRACTIONAL @ SOPHIE TAPPEINER, PAUL MAHEKE, LETTER TO A BARN OWL @ KEVINSPACE
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This week I was in Vienna for just over 24 hours; a flying visit. With Gab in Hong Kong, i was doing Solo Travel. Normally when we travel together we rarely see art; we are more interested in going to the beach or eating good food. But that day in Vienna i felt like some art to keep me company. This week’s review, i wana talk about The Share of Opulence; Doubled; Fractional, a group show at Sophie Tappeiner; and Paul Maheke’s Letter to a Barn Owl at KevinSpace.
Walking in to KevinSpace, the front room was soaked yellow from the window tint; I remember last year, in Taiwan with Evan Ifekoya. They were wearing yellow tinted clip on frames over their glasses and they said, ‘it just makes the world look so much happier’. I haven’t managed to shake that from my head, and it rose up within me as I was going round. A navy blue carpet, with mirror circles on the floor. One mirror in the front room, yellow-happy; a plate painted with a barn owl on top of the mirror, slightly off-centre (another in the space beyond too). Then sheer dark brown curtains separating from a space beyond, with yellow strip-lights and daylight streaming in through the window. There were two more mirrors on the floor beyond the brown curtains; one with text that read: ‘And what if I was not a vacant body, a mess inhabited only by anguish, but a strange light that traveled through time, borrowing various vehicles of flesh’. In the middle of the text was an earthy bundle, like those flowering teas that start as a dry herby ball and unfurl in the hot water, leaking colour and earthy hums. The press release said it was Rose of Jericho; a plant that can revive from a dormant state when watered, survive and thrive. Throughout the exhibition, the plant would be watered n go from withered-bundle-flowering-tea to In Bloom. I sat on the bench by the yellow window and listened to the sound piece: a recording of a psychic reading, a voice flips between analysis of bodies and states (the kind of psychic reading that used the same language as the text on the mirror), and guitar riffs like smooth jazz and easy listening. As I was sat on the bench, through a parting in the brown curtains I saw a painting of a barn owl on the wall, and a crescent of yellow light reflected off one of the mirrors onto the ceiling. This show was in bloom. A steady, slow unfurling, like flowering tea, colour seeping out, earthy hum. Paul is good at making atmosphere i think. Good at creating a suspense that doesn’t have to land in a hard thump or climax to be felt. What a skill! What a talent! An aesthetic balance that feels sparse, but full; how does he do that!? deliver without overloading you, hand you morsels without making it feel like you’re chewing??? I sat and stared at the cresent of yellow light, drifted in and out of listening to the sound piece. I left too soon. This show didn’t make a coherent kind of sense; the sense of ’this is about that’, bc it didn’t have to. I was glad to have felt the components at work, bear witness to affect only.
The show at Sophie Tappeiner was a completely different colour; off-white, not as saturated, slightly tinged pale pale yellow (but a greeny yellow) and more opaque. As I walked in, the space filled with smoke from one of those soft foil scrunchy tubes; thick and opaque, it was Candace Lin and Patrick Staff’s Hormonal Fog (study #6), a smoke machine that pumped out fog spiked with hops, liquorice, and dong quai (all herbs and roots that have natural anti-androgen properties). I breathed it in, I started my period the next day, unexpected. This show was full of work, but the works were small or slight enough to make it not feel overpopulated. Do u know, it felt like the level I think Gab curates at! She has this ability to match up works that have the same feeling or the same vibrational energy and put them in a room together, n they all sing in harmony;; that was this show. I read through the press release carefully, and i understood the idea or the premise; that this show was works gathered around the life of Percy Julian, an American scientist that lived & studied in Austria in that sliver of time between the World Wars, he (i think) is quite well known for using soybean oil to extract progesterone and testosterone. This intersection and overlap; the life of a black american scientist in Europe, his trans-atlantic journey, the magic n alchemy of extracting hormones from a plant, the fact of his race in the world of science. The press release said this show uses his Life and scientific accomplishments as ‘backbone’, but I am not sure. To me they felt like vehicle or nucleus. Maybe that’s a type of backbone? but it didn’t feel like it was holding it upright, it was a softer kind of gravitation. The smoke machine exhaled again n fog poured out over Dominique White’s Landlocked Prisoner, a hanging sculpture made of woven rope, a destroyed sail, with the clay cast of a buoy jammed in to the tangled mix. It trails onto the floor, ratty ends like hair hanging or wisps. Beyond it, the fog tumbles over Kobby Adi’s large clear jars of Atlantic sea water & fermented palm wine. This show is bursting but it has a binding logic, a undercurrent of feeling and tone that hums in harmony. I am less interested in the academic backbone and more into remembering or trying to describe how i felt in the gallery. The press release is a text written by the curator, Cédric Fauq. The last paragraph of the text begins: ‘Ultimately, <<The Share of Opulence; Doubled; Fractional>> sees to render palpable - and not visible - what is often too instrumentalised in the visual realm, under the guise of representational strategies.’ I underlined it in pencil and drew a circle round the paragraph; i feel like my job as critic, review writer has been done, the show has been digested already. Isn’t that exactly it!? something was rendered palpable rather than visible!! My hands were sweaty as I left.
Gab tweeted a few weeks ago that all she’s looking for is an exhibition with atmosphere. I cannot believe I found two in one day in Vienna. I sometimes think I only tie shows together in my mind bc I’ve seen them on the same day, so they slip and bleed into each other. But i’m convinced these two shows sat happily alongside each other, there was a heavy air, affect, these works were meant to be processed by the body, not the head only. Felt, experienced, remembered through their smell or their light. I hope the pictures do them justice, i feel like there is something heavy within me that I haven’t begun to explain in this text. I hope you feel a segment of it too. Crescent moon, fog, rose of jericho unfurles in a shower of steam and Dominique White’s clay cast of a buoy dissolves in water like a bath bomb, palm wine;;; i would like to watch these shows be deinstalled, i think it would either break the magic or help me understand how they worked.