Friday, 7 March 2008

Double Agent at the ICA

Oh noes, its time for another I’m not dead art review, if you’re a connoisseur prepare to inflate your philistine poison sacks. Of the five-ish years I’ve been indoctrinated into the art world, via my significant udder, the ICA has almost uniformly proffered up wank. I’ve never been one to complain, it is, after all, only two pounds to get in. So, given my history and prejudice towards the place, I thought Double Agent was going to be equally lame. But lo, it was actually surprisingly thought provoking, imaginative and enjoyable.

Take Dora Garcia’s ‘Instant Narrative’ well, I say Garcia’s but she wasn’t actually there, she hired writers in her stead (sneaky). You walk into a large white room. It’s completely enclosed apart from the doorway you came through and what looks like a slim exit on the far side. A projection of prose immediately grabs your jaded attention. New text is constantly added as you start to read, so far so arty but then in a Truman Show/Stranger than Fiction epiphany you realise the text is about you.

“Two people walk into the room. One has a three quarter length jacket. They look ok, better than the last lot. I wonder if they’ll kick up as much of a fuss. He’s laughing nervously, she’s enjoying the spotlight.” And so on. It’s a bizarre and unsettling experience. Becoming the unwilling subject feels like the reverse of the jubilation felt by accepted reality TV candidates. I unconsciously stepped backwards so I’d be out of the line of sight of the now identified writer hiding the shadows of the next exit.

The other piece of note is Artur Zmijewski’s video, ‘Them.’ Zmijewski organises a paint workshop to which he invites four groups: Christians, Jews, Young Socialists and Polish nationalists, who are then encouraged to respond to each group’s symbolic depiction of its values.

This starts off civilly enough, each group being tentative about what they change. Initially a young socialist cuts open the doors on the polish church the Christian’s have painted. The Christian’s like the idea of the church doors being open and more welcoming. The Polish Jews rap rainbow tape over the sword that represents the Polish nationalist’s symbol and so on.

It’s not until the fourth day by which point the Polish Nationalist’s symbol has been torn, stamped on, painted over and the Young Socialist’s symbol saying ‘freedom for all’ has been painted over to say, God, Fatherland, Strength that things invariably start to go into meltdown.

I expected but was still surprised to see natural alliances form between the Christians and Polish Nationalists. What surprised me even more was the reverence the Church painting had. It was only in the last heated ideological battle fought with paint and fire that the church painting had the words, ‘we demand tolerance’ strewn across it. In any case, I usually never sit through a full video in a gallery space so that alone should encourage you to go see it.

Double Agent runs till the 6th of April

No comments: