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Martin Howse: Execution

The Fish Factory, Falmouth    26/9/12 - 11/10/12



Martin Howse’s won first prize in VIDA - a competition that celebrates artists working with robotics and artificial intelligence - in 2005.  His 2012 solo exhibition Execution was both an expression of ideas he has since generated from research, and evidence of his lifelong use of technology.


The way the show harnessed the exhibition space and drew from the locality certainly had its charm.  For the show in Falmouth's Fish Factory the artist had built environment for his collection of fungus-infested video tapes from the resident wooden crate slats, creating a low-fi backdrop for the high-tech gear also on display. 


The delicate, fine-lined coloured readings generated from Howse’s local excursions had a visual beauty that contrasted with the excitable electric drill suspended from the room’s metal rafters. The drill audibly transmitted stimuli from a wire-encircled box, again made from wooden crates. 


The works are mostly created with homemade gadgets, many of which detect hidden forces such as electromagnetics and put them on display using sound, photography, video and movement. In one video, Howse resembles a Victorian mental asylum inmate, with a white band strapped around his head and hands, attaching himself to a 'gadget-pimped' elderly person’s shopping cart on wheels.


With its machines and interactive live installations, Howse’s work is reminiscent of Swiss artist Jean Tinguely. The CD player refashioned into one of Howse’s ‘pain registers,’ kitted out with a needle which he had used to draw his own blood by puncturing the back of his hand, illustrates Howse’s technical expertise and his persona as a performance artist. This device is connected to a laptop to bob up and down in response to the vibrations sent out by a standard web browser. Large black and white photographs showing magnified images of his hand being spiked are displayed behind the actual device, but these are not for the squeamish.  


Humour remains evident in Howse’s work, however, as there was nothing that people couldn’t go up to, touch and explore if they wanted to. One man ran up, leapt and landed loudly in front of the drill, which didn’t react, whereas certain voices or frequencies sent the same devices wild.