Tramway, Glasgow: Mark Leckey, Nobodaddy

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Tramway presents Mark Leckey’s first solo exhibition at the gallery, Nobodaddy. Leckey, a 2008 Tuner Prize laureate works with a wide range of performative media, among others including video, sound and sculpture. Nobodaddy highlights power-relations within the identity crisis in the place “where we’re never really fully present, and our presence is kind of distributed” as Leckey himself admits.

The show at Tramway fills in gallery two on the ground floor, the same space which presented 2015 Turner prize nominees’ shows. Upon entering the cinematic mood arising from the darkened space, only illuminated by two sources of light, focused on a more than life-size sculpture and the screen with Mark Leckey’s 10-minutes long film showing scenarios of the very same sculpture within different settings.

The artist participated in a discussion panel organised by the Dallas-based Nasher Sculpture Centre and the Common Guild during the Glasgow International. The conversation between Leckey, Christine Borland and Sam Durant revolved around the idea of artistic licence and the use of found material. Nobodaddy is exemplary of Leckey’s methods of working – it starts with usage of an image already embedded with certain meaning. Primarily using found video footage, Leckey moved onto different sources of inspiration, such as Made in Eaven (2004), where he used Jeff Koons’s iconic inflatable  Rabbit (1986) as the departure point for his work.

The Nobodaddy statue itself fits into this tendency. It is an enlarged version of a 16th-century French church sculpture held at the Wellcome Collection. It is a figure of biblical Job from the Old Testament, whose faith was challenged by Satan inflicting him with boils all over his body. If Job cursed God, he would recover, but he did not say a single word.

Some of the wounds displayed contain speakers, transforming the statue into a 7.1 surround audio system. The narration of Leckey’s text is almost impossible to understand, only singular phrases and words can be recognized, such as “the fear of loss, never-ending, conscious belief, eternity”. Sometimes it is interrupted by his slow, sinister laugh and resembles the reverse speech used in Twin Peaks’s Red Room scene.

The show’s title, Nobodaddy comes from a poem by William Blake and features as the “Father of jealousy”. The protagonist, “nobody’s father “, Urizen, also a character of Blake’s illustrated Book of Urizen, is a figure continuously trying to protect himself from the eternity. He is an anti-God and one of the characters within Blake’s prophet books. He is usually portrayed as an aged patriarch, sitting on a book and measuring the world below.

Image result for william blake urizen
William Blake, The Book of Urizen, c. 1818, Library of Congress

This unfinished project is often reviewed in the context of the critique of “Enlightenment reason” as an alienated source of oppression. Blake stood in opposition to the use of Enlightenment as an excuse for the slave trade, domestic repression and wars of empire, asserting man’s domination over the uncontrollable environment.

Blake believed in sexual and racial equality, and his views on the Enlightenment could refer to the mentality of the period originating from scientific perception. The artist considered it to be used as an excuse for the slave trade, domestic repression and wars of empire. In this way, the Enlightenment was used primarily as a rhetorical device for assertion a man’s dominance over the environment.

Leckey’s sculpture’s body infiltrated with technology resembles an empty vessel for various, distorted identities, an unidentifiable audio blur. The figure of Job becomes a half-figure, half-cyborg, articulating someone else’s words.  In the light of this year’s theme of the Glasgow International discussing the delusional nature of the cyber identity and the responsibilities and power it carries.


Mark Leckey, Nobodaddy

Tue-Fri 12 noon-5pm
Sat & Sun, 12 noon-6pm

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