Excellent David Burrows exhibition at the Mead – New Life
Writing about web page http://www.warwickartscentre.co.uk/?page=mead.html
It is rare for an artist to produce a work that is both stunning visually, having effect beyond the visual, and philosophically fascinating. In his exhibition New Life, currently installed in the Mead Gallery at the University of Warwick (ends 4th December 2004), Dave Burrows has done just that.
The artwork is stunning:
Firstly, what does this exhibition feel like? Stepping inside the large white room, taking up half of the Mead's extensive gallery space, you are quickly drawn past a manifesto-like statement of propositions and into a three dimensional, immersive work that explodes space and compresses time. Across the room debris is strewn, both in concentrations around remnants of building, and between the concentrations. You are in what appears to be a children's bedroom, filled with brightly coloured almost familiar items: flip-flops, toys etc. Between the concentrations, and extending out to the edges of the exhibition, fragments and dense layers of grey crunchy dust (as if from things or persons vapourised) are everywhere. You have to walk through the work itself to see it. You have to enter its moment. Illustrations of the aftermath hang on the walls, including opposing images of a girl and a boy. They act to extend the work out beyond the walls of the gallery. It is spatially a vast and unbounded work.
And philosophically powerful:
We are familiar with, conditioned to, artworks that are spatially constrained. Containment is a powerful mechanism in painting, as in Francis Bacon, who as Deleuze says, confines his subjects spatially (the pope in his chair). But this work seems, at first, to be uconcerned with spatial limits. There are concentrations within it, repetitions and rhythms. There is an entire cartography of intensity. But it seems more unbounded than any painting. We sense that the repetitions could extend out infinitely: the same moment but different again and again.
Narrative usually acts within a work to extend it temporally. A common rule of art is: spatially limited, temporally extended. Landscape is often used to fade out the containment to infinity. But the problem has always been that definition decreases as the distance increases. David Burrows has an interest in mirrors, and the way in which they can, if used correctly, break out of containment without a loss of detail. Perhaps the paintings at the boundary of this work are really mirrors? It certainly feels more extensive than any painting. This combines with repetition to extend the work to infinity. If there is no spatial containment, can there be narrative?
On wandering around the room I was for some time searching for narrative, in fact searching for variables that I could manipulate to play back some kind of narrative implicit in the representation of this explosive event, analysing the phenomenon as if it were the result of some kind of nuclear physics. Variables and functives like those in a scientific experiment: reversible. This is saying something about the limitations of science, and how art deals with the pure event, the event of total loss. There is, fundamentally no "external framing or exoreference" which, as Deleuze and Guattari claim (What Is Philosophy? p.119) is necessary for science. Instead there is the presence of the irreversible Chronos as opposed to the reversible Aion (Deleuze, Logic Of Sense, p.77). Anyhow, David seems to have played upon this desire for narrative sense. Slogans that could lead to some story are graffitied in random locations. The bodies of the children are suggestive of some kind of sick story. But I never got the story. Never grasped the variables. Never worked out how to replay the event. It is, as I think David said in his recent talk at the Mead, an irreversible event (thermodynamics). As described by Deleuze…
Chronos is the present which alone exists. It makes of the past and future its two oriented dimensions, so that one goes always from the past to the future… Deleuze, Logic of Sense, p. 77
…just the aftermath. Hardly identifiable to discourse. No mythology. The familiarity of the artefacts, and the familialism of the children, is just there to tease us. There are no symbolic figures to transcend this event, its got no papa-mommy (Becket via Deleuze), other than the presence of the event itself: immanent.
But there is more. Two concentratory dispositifs hang from the ceiling of the event. Yet again they reverse the normal artistic relationship between time and space. In this case space is confined, while time is opened out. They pass simulateously into its future and reach back into its past. Mobiles suspending familiar objects, either sucked up in the explosion or collapsing as debris. This is the second dimension of the event, of the moment. An indeterminacy. A dice throw…
Aion is the past-future, which in an infinite subdivision of the abstract moment endlessly decomposes itself in both directions at once and forever sidesteps the present. Deleuze, Logic of Sense, p. 77
…the 'time of the artist' as David Burrows called it. The determinacy of the exhibition, with even the movement of the audience within it making little difference, is punctuated by the hand of the artist holding the moment in these two trajectories. And they draw you in to examine the objects in their suspended animation. You begin to notice the constructedness of the objects, the craft in them, the time of their assemblage. And then are opened out onto a second, intersecting line of deterritorialization and reterritorialization, a second line of time/space containments and explosions folded onto the first. A double event.