GoMA,Royal Exchange Square, Glasgow G1 3AH
Joseph Buckley, Jamie Crewe, Jesse Darling, Cécile B. Evans, Lynn Hershman-Leeson, E. Jane, Sam Keogh, Mai-Thu Perret, John Russell.
The Cellular World: Cyborg-Human-Avatar-Horroropened opened on the first day of the Glasgow International at GoMA (Gallery of Modern Art), featuring five internationally-renowned artists and was curated by the festival’s director, Richard Parry.
The vast, neoclassical space of gallery 1 on the museum’s ground floor is intersected with washing lines by Jesse Darling, another immediately noticeable exhibit being John Russell’s digital backlit print Telepath(2018) showing a giant elephant’s head flanked by rows of recessing columns. It communicates with the interior, but the gigantic elephant’s head brings in a feeling of disturbance, reminding me of the all-seeing T.J. Eckleburg’s eyes from The Great Gatsby.
The show introduces the main theme of Director’s Programme, focused on the influence technology has on our lives. Its inauguration was accompanied by Sam Keogh’s performance, which highlighted the dystopian vision of our future.
The artist created a spaceship with a cryopod, and in dusty clothing resembling a sleepsuit – much to everyone’s joy – repeatedly rolled into and out of it. He was telling an interstellar travel story, walking around and crawling on the gallery’s floor. But his words resembled mumbling and gradually the memory loss becomes evident as the artist was struggling to make sense of his surroundings.
The Cellular World attempts at defining and exploring what identity is in times when it can be easily erased or changed. Anything can be potentially done incognito, from finding drugs to finding recipes for the dinner.
The identity question is also addressed with Joseph Buckley’s work Psychic Armour for Black Northerners (2017), consisting of hollow concrete blocks topped with a row of heads covered in red, referencing medieval armour and African masks. In the age where the walls symbolise division, Buckley, in turn, proposed his work as a sign of protecting own cultural heritage of the black northerners.
Only when leaving the exhibition I noticed a neon artwork “2016” hanging above the doorway, another work by Joseph Buckley, The Tsar says, one hundred years ago today. “1917 must surely be better”(2017). Buckley refers to the 1917 Russian Revolutions and the following execution of the royal family. Similarly, the world events which followed the 2016 edition of the Glasgow International seemed to be unexpected and, as probably in 1916, many hopes and dreams were crushed in the course of a year.
The Cellular World presents an uncanny space in between the safety of the Internet domains and turmoil of the outside world. On one hand, the physicality of the works points out to something real, but on the other hand, their bizarreness, both in their forms and in their relations to other works indicates how defining an identity in 2018 is an open-ended task.
By Maria Cynkier