Hasin Salih Ay
As things started to round up on this nine day spectacular, we’d made our best efforts to try to round up at least a fraction of the exhibitions littered across the city. Looping the city round from the Lace Market to Hyson Green, we had the blood-shot determinism of Robert Hughes mainlining Pro Plus off Duchamp’s urinal to see just a fraction of what was left at WEYA. It was an exercise in obsolescence to some extent but by starting at Stoney St Gallery, we gathered erarly taht the effort was going to be worth it.
The conspicuous entrance paid no clues to the imagination and movement inside. Moving through the west wing first, a room little larger than a pantry had been transformed into a catwalk, via some neat computer trickery from Uruguayan artist, Julia Tiscornia Durante. Inside the room, a silver mannequin equipped with a webcam sits to the corner of the room, projecting the viewer into the centre of a gaudy fashion promo. It could have been little more than a novelty gag but the spark of interest lied in how quickly it could manipulate you into obsessing with your image, moving and swaying to fit into the film, becoming a sneaky portrait of narcissistic tics.
Julia Tiscornia Durante
Other highlights included Jinhua Zhou’s photography which treads unnervingly close between well-worn marketing advertising flashiness and sly voyeurism, and Turkey’s Hasan Salih Ay whose fish-tank of fresh orange peel (stay with me) was as visually arresting as it was a redundant indulgence in waste.
The Lace Market Gallery centred on the technical side with an impressive three dimensional design from Maria Catherine Cassidy exploring colonial tropes and imagery, alongside Lloyd Hughes’s polygonal murals or fantastic 30th century quilts.
One of the best kept secrets had to be the Malt Cross’ gallery with a trove of hidden gems to boot. Xiaolei Tian’s, pastel portraits of tea ceremonies captured the serenity and chi of a perfect cuppa without invoking quirk or humour. South African Josly van Wyk, stirred some political ire with a map of her country’s physical waste made from garbage that left you with more to think than your average Greenpeace pamphlet.
As to New Arts Exchange, they’d been able to screen the work of several accomplished film makers; among our favourites was Israel’s Tzion Hazan’s and France’s Mousa Starr. Hazan’s paean to a Lebanese communication tower was a funny and touching indictment of sectarianism while Starr’s piece entitled “J’accuse!” saw the artist attach a dumbbell to his arm, point to the camera and wait while his body weakened, his contortions capturing the revolting face of vindictive rage.
Whether it was the assault to the senses or the realisation that our task was going to involve more than a gentle wander, the exhaustion laid waste to us. With a day left, scratching the surface had been enough to leave us blown away.
Housing the majority of WEYA art last week, Bonington Gallery was a treasure-trove of multi-media artwork, including sculpture, painting, film and audio.
Tucked into a corner of the exhibition, visitors found what appeared to be a five-year-old’s dream. Liz West’s Repeated Everyday is an antique Georgian dollhouse stuffed with plastic jewellery, lego and other childhood brik a brak – and if that’s not enough to excite your inner-child, it also lights up. Each room is flooded with a different lurid colour, which is intensified by mirrors lining the walls. It’s hard to refrain from poking your nose inside this piece - yet despite its Christmassy decor, there is a touch of Halloween about it. Peering into the miniature rooms, you soon catch sight of your own reflection, giant and discoloured by the light. West sums up the piece well with just three words: “playful, sinister, surprising”.
Enter caption hereIf it takes more than that to creep you out, Alice Thickett’s projection work Have I been here before..? would certainly do the trick. Many visitors had to look twice as the shadow of a bodiless woman moved slowly along a gallery wall, occasionally gazing at art or sitting down on a bench. The inspiration behind this ghostly piece is tied to the artist’s struggle to understand art itself – a struggle that is already much explored by artists, as Thickett recognises with her tongue-in-cheek title. Yet the piece is optimistic too - in being both a documentation of the making of art, and the art itself, Have I been here before..? reflects Thickett’s intention to investigate art simply for the fun of it.
The vibrant artwork of Saara Nekomba brought the energy of WEYA’s noisier events to the hush of Bonington Gallery. Originally from Namibia, Nakomba uses collages of bright beads and fabrics to depict the traditional ceremonial dance of the Ndonga people. Her work suggests movement and rhythm with its abstract shapes, and the materials mirror the traditional dress worn during the dance. In one of the pieces, the figure of a dancer strikes a pose against a background of fiery-coloured beads, and her skirt – made from tie-dyed fabric – is creased so that she appears mid-twirl. Clever touches like this give Nekomba’s work an exciting kinaesthetic quality that channels the vivacity of traditional African dance - captivating, enlightening and firey, it was as we left the gallery the perfect conclusion and michrocosm of the week's events.
Peggy Mc Greggor
WEYA ran from the 7-16 September. To find out more about the artists in this review check out their website.