a-n Magazine

18 April 2008


Unheimlich Leeds Met Gallery, Leeds 18 April - 17 May 2008 Reviewed by: Sharon Mangion It always surprises me that we are so habituated to the everyday stuff of existence that life does not seem strange to us most of the time. There is probably a good evolutionary reason for this as experiencing the Uncanny on a regular basis would kind of dilute the experience and perhaps cause a lot more mental instability. Exhibitions like Unheimlich now showing at the Leeds Met Gallery are designed to remind us of those cracks in our everyday perceptions and this one does it very well, although to be forewarned is to be forearmed as they say which has the danger of making it a bit of an academic exercise. Having said this I was excited by the prospect of being taken out of a dreary, grey day in Leeds and wasn't disappointed. This turned out not to be an escapist exercise though, nor was it just an essay on Freud's unconscious and anxiety dreams. With a strong allegorical line running through several pieces exploring our evolutionary trajectory through nature, ideas about subliminal linguistic processing and our morbid voyeuristic tendencies I was impressed by the diversity of themes running through the show. In Rachel Goodyear's richly worked-up series of little drawings for example, one is led back to the idea that human nature is reflected in nature in Buttercup, 2008 and our inherent animal nature in Itchy Back, 2008 and Girl with Foxes, 2007. Steven Bishop's Suspension of Disbelief, 2007 where man made neon lights invade the space of the natural world is also a wonderful play with visual metaphor. The creature of the night, the wily fox's taxidermic body is suspended in mid air, pierced by neon rods bringing in the question of where the real lies in relation to illusory world of art. Clara Ursitti's E.C.C.O., 2007, an exploration of pseudo science and the world of self-creating systems could be a de-programming film from the school of Scientology. With its hypnotic, transgressive commentary on the parabolic super-self overlaying images of our contested evolutionary home, the underwater realms of the deep sea, or perhaps it is a neuro-linguistic eco programme for re-habituating us to the environment. It is a clever play between language and the figurative that is also apparent in her Selection from the dolphin girl porcelain collection, 2006/7 with its fractal and morphed forms and shadows evolving in a light, dark dualism. The viewer is reminded of how clunky Freud's theory of the unconscious appears to us now with its original emphasis on tracing mental neurosis back to physical systems in Pete Smith's Lot, 2008 with his mechanical dolls and vibrating mattresses. I like his title, which brings to my mind the idea of chance in the field of the unconscious and how we are at the mercy of what happens in our sleep. I like too Matt Lippiatt's Diving Board, 2008 and the idea of the leap of imagination, into the unknown. His work goes to the heart of the Uncanny and the sense of loss that a shift in perception brings to consciousness. His Missing Posters, 2008 are more like wanted ads on a dating site mixing a sense of longing with a macabre voyeurism at what might have happened to the missing. A nicely curated show by Matt Roberts, that looks outside the world of Freud as well as inside it. At the dreams and stories that make up our everyday assumptions about who we are and where we have come from.

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