The discomfort zone
"'Innocence And Despair' is built on feelings of isolation, disconnection, frustration and helplessness, the cruel inescapable sense of daily revolving repetition, and the desperate fear that ours is an uncertain, incomplete view, a skewed gaze not shared by any other". So begins the crib sheet for a new exhibition which opened at g39 in Cardiff on Friday, inspired by (amongst other things) The Langley Schools Music Project, a film soundtrack by Tindersticks and Low's boxset A Lifetime Of Temporary Relief. Not exactly a barrel of laughs, then, and so it proved.
As is so often the case with contemporary art, the crib sheet betrays the apparent necessity of cloaking the artworks in words and explanations (even if oblique ones), rather than allowing the works to speak for themselves or (more to the point) the viewer to impose his or her own meanings upon them. In that respect, I'm annoyed at myself for even picking a sheet up.
Holly Davey's photo self-portraits neither impressed nor seemed to fit with the general theme, and Marko Maetamm's short film playing on a loop in the darkened cellar - a Kafka-esque tale of shadowy authority figures and random, coldly impersonal acts of violence - didn't grab me either. His 'Bleeding House' series of paintings, though, I found more affecting; the streaks of red gushing out of windows reminded me of the scene in 'The Shining' when the lift doors open.
Best were Gaia Persico's 'World Animations' on the top floor, for which the description of the exhibition as a whole above is most fitting. They're curiously cartoon-like visions of scenes from windows, animated only insofar as one small detail changes from time to time - pictures you watch rather than see. The views are of manmade landscapes and environments, and signs of life are present - doors opening, washing flapping in the wind - but intriguingly people are conspicuous by their absence. My favourite is the animation of a block of flats, jet black with the windows illuminated, inviting you to peer in voyeuristically. Nothing better represents the contradictory nature of urban life, in which people are forced together yet strive to keep themselves apart. Where there could be community, there's only insularity and detachment.