On until 21st December 2019 (FREE)
Human beings have an inherent need to reduce information, to classify. A strategy that helps us make sense of the world but with the potential unintended consequence of losing depth of meaning in the process. In a world where everything is categorised it is a breath of fresh air to see complexity celebrated. General Meeting is somewhat inspired by the concept behind the Non-Aligned Movement that began in Belgrade during the Cold War where States that didn't align themselves with the United States or the then Soviet Union got together to remain independent. The exhibition shows eighteen works by seven artists who don't necessarily align themselves with one another, other artists or movements in the broader world of art.
I was drawn to this exhibition by the practice of Eva Gold. My first encounter with Eva's works was at the Royal Academy Schools degree show last Summer. I had the opportunity to chat to Eva for a bit and she told me how she had to cover the couch of Lazy Boy (The Perv), 2019 in vaseline as people kept on sitting on the artwork. It made me chuckle then but it wasn't until seeing her works at General Meeting and reflecting on her practice that I realised how fitting it was to spread vaseline all over a work called The Perv. Eva has two works on show at GM. Baby, 2018 is an installation of a battered bowling pin attached to the end of a long link steel chain which hangs from an L-shaped bar screwed high up on the wall. When I saw this work my first thoughts were on whether the title referred to the bowling pin given the shape of the object and its resemblance to a small human. It wasn't until I read her other work in the show, Untitled, 2019 - a piece of writing typed on an A4 paper stapled to a cylindrical concrete pillar - that I reflected on other possibilities for the bowling pin. While the artwork is untitled the writing is titled A Swift Transition. It is a descriptive short story narrated in first person of a woman who has spent her first night with a man whom she calls S while in a relationship with another whom she calls R. This first night with S leaves marks in her body and she decides to end it with R. The referring to the men in the story by S and R made me wonder whether the account was fictional or biographical. The bruises on the woman's body prompted me to look at Baby differently. Was the bowling pin used to inflict those bruises?
Another work that caught my attention for its reflection on ambiguity was Ai Sranang, 2017, a four-minute video by Surinamese artist Xavier Robles de Medina. The work explores the complexities and intricacies of Suriname's history to the sound of Blaka Rosoe, a traditional local song by singer Lieve Hugo. It shows scenes of flood, fire, death, corruption, party, dance, celebration, travel, family, politics, patriotism, conflict - all side by side because tragedy and happiness don't happen in isolation but in tandem. I found interesting how Xavier intercalated these scenes with the trajectory of an out-of-control old bus. The video has a less than optimistic ending with the bus crashing to the side of the road.
"...the works nodded at one another in understanding and respect."
Nine of the eighteen works on show are photographs by American photographer Robin Graubard. The artist plays on the boundary of the journalistic and the personal. Darren Flook, one of the curators of the show, explained to me how, early in her career, Graubard would look at documentary photographs she had taken in her role as a freelance news photographer in the same roll of film as personal photos of junkies and surfer girls and how this informed her practice and the blurring of boundaries.
Mandy El-Sayegh brings to the exhibition two installations on vitrine tables: FaceSitter2, 2018 and ET sleep cycle, 2018. FaceSitter2 shows a black and white striped apron laid on a narrow stainless steel table. There is a small image on the top left of the apron, like a pocket. It's an image of the lower part of a woman's torso and a vagina reading a book. Below the image an inscription reads: AND IT'S NOT EVEN MY BIRTHDAY. More than the content what is interesting about El-Sayegh's works is the reflection on the limits of the surface in which the artwork is displayed - what stays in, what stays out, what hangs to the side. A reflection on the limits of categorisation.
Other artists in the show include Kobby Adi with two works both titled (for now), 2019 which made me think of consumerism, Heike-Karin Föll shows a print on paper dominated by yellow titled bought my name, 2019, Dustin Ericksen exhibits a large black and white circular wall piece made out of floor tiles that were recycled from a previous work.
The more time I spent immersed in the exhibition the more I realised how the works nodded at one another in understanding and respect. It is a truly interesting show with layers of meaning that will leave the viewer intrigued for some time.