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Something Like Spit

Part of the New Works Programme

The Engine Room, The Exchange 12-19th May 08


The idea of writing a review for an exhibition inspired by Bataille's idea of formlessness, is perhaps a conceptual oxymoron. Formlessness or 'l'informe' was linked to Bataille's revolutionary and anti-rational theory of base materialism, and his desire to overturn accepted categories and orthodoxies. However, rest assured that regular, accepted descriptors such as 'exhibit', 'performance', 'video', 'audio', 'text' were still largely applicable to what was on view at the Exchange.



'Something Like Spit' is a collective of artists and collaborators who originally met at Dartington, and the residency was set up very much as an artists' lab, with a number of artists curating, exhibiting and working within the space over the 5 day period. 

Dominating the centre of the room was a work by Rebecca Weeks: an indomitable lump of building-work in-progress, orange plastic fence bordering it, TV placed on a rock at the back just off centre, and a wonderfully ironic 'Wish You Were Here' juxtaposed with images of metal fences and walls.  At times the images shuddered with bad tracking and static and I wasn't sure in this 'formless' exhibition if this was purposeful or a technical fault. The piece had an absolute, unequivocal density, however, and the idea of exploring something that is generally seen as everyday and mundane echoed Peter Geschwind's household hallucinations over in the other room.



Nicholas Grew exhibited a washing line, grass around its base, wooden pegs upon it and one plastic bag hanging complete with what looked like an old meat stick or something resembling faeces. I had to clear the matter up and was told that it was shit, or at least was meant to be. I have no idea of the materials actually used but feel that somehow it would have been better to have had real shit, human shit: as being generally more honest and compelling. Either way I'm sure Bataille, who was drawn amongst other images to the 'Solar Anus', and to base materials (ie to things that are disgusting or culturally repressed), would have approved.

A black and white bold poster by Tracey Warr with a message about fishing was on the wall nearby. I wondered as to its intent, believed it had to be ironic, but was not sure. 



There was a red Avengers-style costume hanging next to the poster, along with some writing, a map, a poem and a high priest-like head-dress by Michelle Horacek. This was a captivating work attempting to inhabit the energy of the fox, and was definitely part of the residency that had to be experienced, rather than discussed or read about. Michelle began the performance in the Engine Room and then went out onto the streets; onto Chapel St, down Queen St and into St Mary's cemetery; interacting with buildings and environment as she moved. Ian Whitford, another of the curators and artists, accompanied her playing bodhran and keeping the space.

In one of the small rooms there was an audio and text work: 'Orpheus's Descent into the Underworld' – created by Olchar E Lindsaan and Alan Reed, re-enacting a scene from the classic tale.  An envelope on the table commanding 'Look' and inside a letter from Eurydice telling Orpheus that she is dead.



In the small room next door a film called 'Nuremburg' by Mark Greenwood and Liam Yates was playing. The information outside said that it was a journey that was not a journey, which was a bit off-putting, but this was an interesting piece; not least for its hand held slanted angle and back audio of dark cello and industrial noise with a narrative running over the top that was reminiscent of Richard Burton reading Dylan Thomas.



Tracey Warr also explored the idea of journey with her video work Helmholtzstraße; a series of still images examining a trip that she regularly made from a new perspective. Next to the video were a series of white bowls holding water, and an invitation for people to place messages within them upon strips of paper.

Bryony Henderson's 'Box of Dirt' – a text installation asking the public to share their written dirt was brought to life by her corresponding performance of the 'Archive of Dirt'.  Again this was formlessness in action, and the singer was not a singer, and the drummer was not a drummer and the performance was not a performance (at least this is what it said on the handouts). I believe that Bryony and her collaborator Andy Odber produced a dynamic and challenging verbosity, with rhythm and beats.



One of the artists, and instigator of the project, Rebecca Weeks, said that she felt that people might have difficulty in understanding what 'Something like Spit' was truly about, and I agree that it needed some commitment from the viewer to stay, to re-visit, to experience the other events on their programme and to read the associated theories, literature and manifesto in order to absorb the work as a whole.

The collective took up the residency so physically it gave an energy and hum to the Exchange that has been much needed.  This was definitely an interesting show for the Engine Room, and probably deserving of a bigger space and a longer timeslot. 

Something Like Spit - the collective.  Core members: Nicholas Grew, Bryrony Henderson, Michelle Horacek, Alan Reed, Marianne Torrance, Tracey Warr, Rebecca Weeks.  Collaborators: Mark Greenwood, Olchar E Lindsaan, Andy Odber, Kath Wynne, Liam Yeates





Linda Cleary 22/5/08