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Concrete Dreams: Art, Architecture and Social Space, at APT Gallery

From:     Eva
Category: Art
Date:     08 September 2008
Time:     08:51 AM


A very ambitious sub-title for an exhibition but tempered in the press release by the qualifier that
the angle-in is via the experience of the ‘concrete skin’ of ‘lived space’.  The visual first
impression of the show is that everything is purposely at different heights and scales. It’s as if
‘lived space’ is an Alice in Wonderland environment of doll house miniatures.  On reflection, it’s
possibly more Gulliver’s Travels than Alice in Wonderland, due to a suggestion of ‘critical
practices’, which can be as satirical as wondrous. But in terms of critical or political approaches
there’s no one dominant position. Which is not necessarily a problem, but it makes things a bit more
difficult for the audience - in terms of being presented with a group show that suggests a strong
central premise and then trying to work out what the position of the curators is. 

Although many of the artistworks refer to architects’ models, these objects are more craft based and
deliberately a-functional. There are visual puns and intriguing hybrid sculptures, such as Kier
Smith’s brick-houses, Jools Johnson’s recycled computer parts and Victoria Rance’s strange shelf
objects. Then there are photos placed on long verticals and horizontals, which themselves are
effectively miniatures of experienced every day details (Silke Dettmers’ low-placed prints) or
semi-illustrational (Martin Newth’s long-vertical photo tower). Even the monitors are placed at
different heights and contribute to the object orientated feel of the exhibition. Hattie Lee’s video
of a journey through nighttime London to the music of Scorcese’s Taxi Driver works well. One of my
favorite pieces in the show was Jefford Horrigan’s video – it takes a while to notice within a large
deadland -cityscape composition the man dancing with the wheelie bin, nice. 

Generally, it’s a very well put together show which succeeds in presenting the work of 27 artists in
a way that doesn’t feel cramped. The theme is popular and for good reason, but it makes it
potentially a minefield. Most of the works reference architecture, yet without the show becoming an
architect’s show. But something was missing and I’m not sure what. Maybe there were too many works
which formally echoed each other. The show just didn’t quite get under the skin of it’s subject, but
maybe it didn’t want to.

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