EVIDENCE OF ABSENCE
5th July - 26 July 2011
Catherine Bell, Michael Needham,
curated by Tony Garifalakis with Artemio, Ruben Gutierrez, Manuel Mathar,
Maria Alos, Cristian Franco, Edgar Cobian, Felipe Manzano, Joaquin Segura,
Daniela Edburg, Eduardo Abaroa,
Catherine Bell triggers feelings of abstract abhorrence by filling the
gallery space with a sea of thousands of hand-made pellets of rat shit,
which the audience is compelled to pass through.
Stemming from Bell's own horror at discovering rats living in her studio
(a fact witnessed by the faecal visiting cards left behind by the rodents)
this work plays on the complexities of scale and the emotional response
to matter experienced en masse.
While a single innocuous pellet would barely warrant a second glance,
this flooding of the space with ordure invokes a deep revulsion because
in viewing it we are forced to contemplate the sheer number of rats it
would take to create this mess, and suddenly the gallery is haunted with
a smell, the sound sharp teeth devouring everything in reach and the
scratching of hundreds of sharp claws scampering across the floor. These
imaginings carry with them the miasma of disease and squalor, the black
death, and the disquieting feeling of unwelcome visitors.
The work plants unsettling seeds which thrive easily in our imaginations,
thus our discomfort arises not from the work itself, but from what it
Michael Needham's work draws upon the ancient story of Artemisia, the
widow queen of Mausolus, whose grief became larger than the life it recalled.
After her husband's death, Artemisia devoted her life to his mourning.
She built the Mausoleum of Helicarnassus, the grandeur of which was given
to represent the enormity of her grief, and it is believed that she also
consumed his ashes.
The story resonates with Freud's theory that deep melancholia
signifies the rupturing of the ego – the loss of the self – as a result
of the internalisation, rather than release, of the lost of object.
Like a tomb or memorial, Needham's work underlines the absence of that
which is recalled, and leaves us with a strange sense of loneliness and
undirected yearning. As viewers we fumble for a point of recognition:
Faceless resin busts fail to meet our gaze; our own reflection escapes
us in a darkened mirror; and a glass decanter, holding not wine but the
ash-like remains of the mirror's reflective surface, reminds us of Artemisia's
cannibalistic consumption of her husband's ashes, and the turning of
her own body into his tomb and final resting place.
Both Bell and Needham's work dwell not on the object, but the
fact of its absence.
In contemplating the work of these artists we find that memory has an
almost tangible presence, like a stain, which continues to occupy the
space long after the object itself has disappeared.
curated by Tony Garifalakis
Artemio, Ruben Gutierrez, Manuel Mathar, Cristian Franco, Edgar Cobian,
Felipe Manzano, Joaquin Segura, Daniela Edburg, Eduardo Abaroa, Ilan
Alarma! is a Mexican tabloid magazine that focuses largely on
violent crime. The content of the magazine, while being dominated by
gratuitous coverage of horrific murder scenes, is interspersed with advertisement
for dating agencies, horoscopes, and sexy centrefolds. These juxtapositions
are disconcerting, and yet somehow humanising. In this bizarre, sensationalised
account of what are often argued to be the two greatest motivators –
sex and death – they act as a reminder that despite all things, life
Tony Garifalakis invited artists living in Mexico City to respond to
the magazine for this exhibition at Death Be Kind, the array of responses
examine a forensic aesthetic influenced by the tabloid demand and consumption
of death and violence.
Text by Jess Kelly