Exchange exhibiton, part 1

from 04.11.1999 to 27.11.1999

Shizuka Yokomizo, Bengt Olof Johansson, Anna Brag, Per Hüttner, Clifton Steinberg, Martyn Simpson

Is this Home or Elsewhere?

There is something about the way that we define ourselves that cannot be removed from an idea of place. Our individual histories are firmly related to the world around us, and in order to be elevated from nowhere to somewhere a specific location needs to mapped onto experience. Being aware of relationships between ourselves and the surrounding environment is important to our negotiation of everyday life. It is difficult to make sense of our visual culture without taking into account how the context that we inhabit influences our ways of seeing.
Like the finger print or the bullet hole, the photograph is an indexical sign that cannot be separated from the physical presence of what it is attempting to signify or represent. When we look at a photograph we understand it in terms of what we do not see as much as what is revealed before us. Far from existing as an objective document, the photograph is mediated through a web of contextual information. In this play between what is present and absent, understanding the photographic image is contingent, on the image and viewer's locations. The Reflective Surface is concerned with investigating this relationship through six diverse strategies that turn space into place through an anthropology of home and elsewhere.
Bringing together six artists from two different countries, The Reflective Surface is a project that moves across and responds to a number of different locations (Finland, Sweden, Austria and England). Through an interrogation of place and identity, each artist's practice draws on the viewer's own sense of location. Anna Brag's ever growing work Prototype is in the process of constructing a new community, the members of which can clearly be identified through their physical appearance. In each location where the work is shown, six women are invited to have their hair cut and dyed into a specific style. Documented and geographically pin-pointed, it is impossible not to try associate the differences that separate this physically similar tribe with the individuals' home locations. There is something similar at work in the images presented by Clifton Steinberg. His objects and images focus on the ways that we seek to represent ourselves in public, be it through our own appearance or through the way we mark out our own domain. Threaded in front of the view of the landscape that we can see through the gallery window are a series of plastic key rings designed to hold an individual photograph - something to remind you of home. Steinberg has filled these key-fobs with images of home, endless images of home, that reveal how individuals alter their habitat to make it their own.
Shizuka Yokomizo too deals with the way that individuals make their mark on their own domain, but this time the gaze of the camera and viewer is met with the self possessed stare of the one who calls this place home. In this series, Strangers, Yokomizo makes contact with individuals whom she will never meet, and enters into a contract to photograph them looking out onto the street from their own domestic space. Taken in a number of different locations that The Reflective Surface vists, a sense of territory confounds the voyeuristic content of these images. The power of the gaze firmly lies with the subject who turns the camera's stare into a controlled portrait of themselves. These moments of self reflection are also apparent in Martyn Simpson's cut outs. Simpson's images shift from lunar landscape to domestic confines as we try make sense of what we see before us. These abstracted forms reflect a moment of complete self immersion, that moment of staring into space, of looking at the very fabric of the surrounding building. Far from abstract, these are very concrete images of the walls of the contemplative cells in Le Corbusier's monastery La Tourette.
In many ways the photograph will always be a self portrait of the image's author, as it is a subjective and partial view of reality that is being re-presented to us. Although appearing in his own images, Per Hüttner's series taken in the prime sites of consumerism draw attention as much to the surrounding urban space as to the incongruous constant figure. Clad in the latest sportswear, Hüttner is depicted running a ceaseless marathon from place to place: like the Bechers' anthropology of industrial capital or Steinberg's cataloguing of domestic facades, Hüttner's shopping malls seem to point to the minutiae of divergence rather than the first sight appearance of similitude.
Dislocation and displacement are fundamental to a sense of home: we need to recognise elsewhere in order to recognise what is here, and to identify ourselves. Intrinsic in this are the ways in which specific places -be it home or elsewhere- are presented back to us. This subjective view is a product of wider cultural concerns that are constantly shifting in response to the zeitgeist. Bengt Olof Johansson's work mediates on structures of representation that form both the codes of artistic practice, and the way that we understand the world around us. Utopian representations of landscape, and transit between home and elsewhere are brought together in a construction that makes the visitor to the exhibition aware of how integral their own presence is to the completion of the art work around them. Johansson's work encapsulates the concerns of The Reflective Surface : it questions the how we read and negotiate our surrounding environment.

Lisa Le Feuvre