‘Black’ is a sequence of four short-term exhibitions / installations / events (delete as appropriate) to be staged over an eighteen month period in a domestic cellar space of artist Stuart Edmundson’s house in Salford, North-West England.
So far, so 1990s, but the twist here is the fact that only the first 20 of the e-mailed invitees to acknowledge attendance can actually attend the launch bash. Conversations about the ‘art’ displayed are the primary concern, along with a liberal dash of beery conviviality and a temporary fuck-you to the choppy waters of funding applications and the marketplace.
Considering the fact that Edmundson has predicated the function of the space as an enforced absenting of a large percentage of a prospective audience, the perfect artist would be one who, if not exactly making an effort to remove the art-object from proceedings, at least makes an effort to trim things back to essentials. Hence the opening gambit of handing over the space to Joe Devlin and his new piece 'Necrophagous Shadows'.
Devlin has previously used the marks, stains and readers doodlings left in library books as a starting point for his work, ‘Necrophagous Shadows’ is more physically ambitious than his usual neo-conceptual output but remains equally enigmatic and self-contained. A gaggle of plinths radiate from one corner of the cellar illuminated by a desk lamp sat on the floor. Each is topped by a freestanding image of the shadow of an art object cut-out from an image in an art magazine.
The casual grouping of plinths are really clunky skeletal echoes of functional plinths: either too narrow, too shallow, too high, or too low to be blankly reusable display supports their peculiar dimensions dictated by their shadow images positions within the source magazines numbered pages.
With an inflection of anamorphic distortion the small shadow-shapes are all profoundly different from each another - one a linear fine archers bow motif, another a wonky Poirot-style moustache shape, others a miniature flattened Brancusi, a black corn-chip curl, and on and on. It’s impossible to reconstruct the absent form producing these shadows.
Visible vacuums, the tracing of an absence, vagrant bits; these are echoes of absences, awkwardly contextualized in a domestic space with a limited audience and blankly refusing a meaning, with the lack of a written attempt to elucidate the critical dimension of the piece acting as an additional absence.
The titling of the install - ‘Necrophagous Shadows’ - seems to be another destabilizing addition to the affair; a sarcastic acknowledgement of the excessive gothic lardings favoured by some contemporary practitioners and a pointer to the conceptual notions undercutting the display.
The life of an art object isn’t predicated on it being fixed, motionless, but on its semi-transparency, its fluidity as a trigger of associations which themselves shift in relationship with each other.
Of equal importance, a play with stuff - materially imperfect, bloody-mindedly solid and soiled - has the added ingredient of the auric quality of matter and the additional edge of psychological invasiveness that thingness brings.
The simple fact of things in the world, stubborn reality, allows a shifting perspective to be applied but is completely indifferent to defining constructs, no matter how smart or insightful.
Things simply are. Any art work degenerates into an embodied ideology, which is both inevitable, necessary, and, often, rather tragic.
Crikey, somehow the whole event seems to make sense!