Cell Project Space & Studio Headquarters, 258 Cambridge Heath Road, London E2 9DA,
13 Dec 2012
Cell Project Space
15 Nov 2012 - 17 Jan 2013
Review by Mette Kjaergaard Praest
A rapid flow of fragmented information greets the visitor to ‘Chimera Q.T.E’. Pastel colours and shiny surfaces dominate visually, and a cacophony of digital sound fills the space. At first, the exhibition appears like a display of colour, materials and techniques. However, a closer look reveals the content within the form.
The puzzling title ‘Chimera Q.T.E’ provides a point of entry to the concept of the show. Chimera, according to Greek mythology, was a monstrous fire-breathing female creature composed of the parts of three animals: a lion, a serpent and a goat. Chimera is also a synonym for daydream, fantasy, figments of the imagination. The last part of the title, Q.T.E is an acronym for ‘Quick Time Event’, a term used in video and computer games to denote the moment when the narration of the game shifts, and the player takes action, navigating the turn of events via the keyboard. The title connotes myths, fictional realities, and imagination alongside virtual realities, and fast modes of perception and experience.
Cornelia Baltes’ work ‘Baccara’ (2012) consists of two photographs of similar forest landscapes: both seem impenetrable due to the layering of dense vegetation, and come across like secret gateways to a remote mystical universe. ‘The Dream is Kournikova’ (2012), by Berry Patten also has a sense of inaccessibility to it. A close-up photograph of an unrecognisable tennis racket with the tag ‘Berry’ aesthetically resembles urban street art, while the meaning of the word ‘Berry’ points in a different and perhaps more feminine direction, thus causing a contradiction between image and word.
In the centre of the space is Adham Faramawy’s installation, ‘Violet Likes Psychic Honey 2’ (2012), a sculpture comprised of two screens which show a colourful animation of a science fiction environment, complete with sculptural cityscapes and psychedelic mazes. The two screens are placed on pastel spray-painted speakers, from which play a continuing computer game soundtrack. Faramawy’s installation recalls a recent past when technology was characterised by naivety, while at the same time the work seems an odd prediction of a near future we yet know nothing about.
Nicolas Deshayes’ ‘Salts (Sels)’ (2012) consists of five steel panels with what looks like condensed and vacuum-packed windows mounted on each. The materials are rough and non-transparent, and the work accumulates the feeling of seclusion from a distant and yet present dimension. Jack Lavender’s ‘Glasses Tree’ (2012), a sculpture consisting of a twig-like steel structure cast in a steel plinth and decorated with 1980s polarised sunglasses, suggests with its raw expression a darker side to the exhibition.
‘Waving’ (2012) by Oliver Sutherland is a double screen video of what looks like a torch shining out from underneath a dark tactile surface that resembles water. The work recalls the film ‘The Abyss’ (1989) directed by James Cameron, and suggests a gloomy feeling of something unknown waiting on the other side. Travess Smalley’s ‘Alta Dark’ (2012), a large and colourful digital print on silk, returns the viewer’s attention to the initial focus on materials, colours and techniques. Its psychedelic quality brings back some brightness to the exhibition while something sinister remains looming behind the colour’s light.
The final piece in the project space is Sabrina Ratté’s ‘Age Maze’ (2011), a video projection which has the mesmerising effect of an optical labyrinth. The video is psychedelic and hypnotic and resembles a 1980s science fiction film. The soundtrack is overwhelming and stresses the sensation of being in a trance, a feeling that grows throughout the exhibition.
The mood of the show changes rapidly and the viewer has to keep up. With Q.T.E. in mind, the viewer becomes the protagonist of the videogame, quickly responding to the changes in the surroundings. Sound plays a significant role within the slightly oppressive atmosphere. The two sound sources, Faramawy’s ‘Violet Likes Psychic Honey 2’ and Ratté’s ‘Age Maze’, fill the space, overlap and clash, which at first encounter is confusing, but after some time becomes hypnotic and contributes to the overall feeling of walking further into a dreamscape, into another dimension.
In ‘Chimera Q.T.E’ form and content come together, not in the sense of a calm and functioning organism, but rather as hectic machinery, as if inside a videogame. The pastel colours and the shiny surfaces in the exhibition come across as the outer structure of the other dimension. Once this surface is penetrated a futuristic universe materialises. The use of 1980s science fiction aesthetics proposes alternative realities, in which digital technology, fantasy and contemporary art, by a quick turn of events, become one, in the shape of a three-headed creature.