I wrote this review of Blindeye, an exhibition held at Ladybeck, Leeds back in November. I've only just got round to posting it now:
The doors are now closed, the lights are out, the show is over and the dust has settled, just. Blindeye “A contemporary art exhibition bringing together a broad collection of talented and conscious young artists, expressing their feelings of unjust, frustration and struggle” was a pop-up art show curated by Dave Guest, held at Lady Beck, Leeds, 18 November, 2017. At the time of writing this, it’s a day later.
Lady Beck is situated in Mabgate, an inner city area characterized by red brick facades of warehouses and looming tower blocks. It’s evocative of artist run spaces of 1960’s New York or the alternative spaces of 1990’s London. Such spaces are fertile grounds for unrepresented and emerging artists working outside of established galleries. Some of these spaces and the artists that once populated them have since become a part of the establishment but the independent art space still endures in many cities and has become a mainstay in contemporary art. Lady Beck is one such space, it’s an unsung hero of the Leeds art scene, hidden amongst the industrial outskirts of the city it has been consistent in showcasing the best in contemporary fringe art.
The history of the alternative art space is present in Blindeye, it’s hard to view the show without being cognisant of its legacies. The show is distinguished by the stylistic breadth on display, consisting of 15 artists whom are individualistic in aesthetic, medium and voice. There is little, if anything connecting the pieces, each occupying its own space, each creating its own conceptual significance and as such the exhibition takes on the quality of Language Poetry; an avant-garde movement that challenged the orthodoxies of writing, abandoning narrative and form in favour of a fragmentary non-arrangement. It makes it difficult to pick out any one work which could embody the totality of the show but a few pieces rise to prominence –
‘Camera Phone’ (2017) by Mr Carrot Boy is a sculptural amalgamation of defunct digital technologies; old cameras, phones and watches have been pieced together as a comment on the absurdity of technology’s insistence to carve out its own niche of functionality. The piece is suspended inches above a plinth as a nod towards the impermanence of technology, it’s perpetual evolution denying the ability to scrutinise its value.
‘Four Lizards’ (2017) by Dom White is in a way reminiscent of ‘Dance’ (1910) by Henry Matisse, it depicts four humanoid lizards, clad in business attire dancing with ritualist glee. It sits beside an untitled work by Hole93 which depicts an asteroid impact or a nuclear strike, under which a cockroach stands with indifference. There is a cold blooded relationship between the two which may be unintentional but it creates an ambiguous dialogue not shared amongst the other works. The lizard people dance as if in celebration of the event, distant survivors or even perpetrators, either way the two pieces’ point towards some kind of Armageddon which is devoid of human presence.
‘Can You Hear Me/Can You See Me’ (2017 - ongoing) by William Noel Clarke is a work of embroided cloth hung central in the space, it’s comprises of a series of repeated questions directed at prominent curators, writers and artists; “Lisa Le Feurve can you hear me?” “Lucy R Lippard can you see me?”
The show is less pop-up as it is hit-and-run, the scope of it dizzying and the brevity of it exhilarating. Though the show is fragmentary it is so to its credit. It coalesces to embody the disparate and disconnected experience of contemporary life, unified by the sense of being on the outside unable to enact affect. The hope for shows and spaces like this is that ideas take root, artists forge pathways and the event stakes a claim in the story of art. It may go unseen or unheard of by the likes of Hans Ulrich Obrist but it has its place in Leeds, it adds to the story and it enriches the city.
Blindeye, Lady Beck, Leeds, 18 November, 2017