“KARST has definitely raised the bar with this show – the depiction of a decayed, abandoned, but celebrated cityscape assaults all your senses and resonates the history of the gallery space itself...”
'The Earth is Our Radio' – showing 19 February to 19 March at KARST // www.karst.org.uk
BA (Hons) Fine Art student Louise Riou-Djukic reviews:
The Earth is Our Radio is the latest exhibition at KARST. Open from the 19 of February until the 19 of March 2016, the exhibition showcases the work of seven international artists.
The first time I heard about this exhibition was through the words of a friend, currently on an internship at KARST, describing the show as ‘one with street artists’. So to be fair, I was expecting lots of graffiti as it is probably the first stereotype that comes to mind when thinking about street art.
To my surprise the show was very different to what I anticipated. Indeed, it is about street art, but a whole different side of the art form, where the link to urban culture doesn’t only happen through graffiti and where a celebration of the cityscape occurs in a rather delicate way.
When you enter the gallery you’re directly thrown into an ambience reminiscent of dystopian films and decayed cities. The piece you’re first exposed to is Rob Chavasse’s ‘Recreation’ – a video piece combining vertiginous images, symphony and scream-like noises from the mechanism of an electronic toy car.
"The feeling of a decayed urban space is definitely something that screams out from this show." — Louise Riou-Djukic
The video is around two minutes long and certainly raises your heart tempo (or maybe it was just mine), helped by the violence evoked by the symphony and the rhythm of the video slowly accelerating until the final crash of the car, left alone in what seems to be a very big and empty city.
Then after an emotionally heavy moment in the lobby, you pass the small opening to enter a cavernous white space with signs of burned flags – depicting the colourful and very possible decay of a state – and cages that visitors don’t even seem to notice as if they have been desensitized to such things. The feeling of a decayed urban space is definitely something that screams out from this show.
One piece that really stood out for me was 'Boarded 2' by Eb Itso. In a corner of the gallery, near the cage-like installation by Marcin Dudek are some wood panels on the wall. At first, you don’t really think about it, it has an organic feel reminding you of some of Richard Long’s early works. Maybe it’s about wood?
But then you get to see the photograph and that’s enough for you to say ‘oh… okay’ and reconsider the whole piece. How effective is that? I would say really effective. It changes the whole feeling you could have had for this piece, it changes its meaning and creates a story.
You’re suddenly drawn in, wanting to learn what happened and who those people who had to leave their houses were. It builds an impression of sadness, of closure, of human displacement – bringing back memories of New Orleans after Katrina – like the images you see in National Geographic of cities in the US that suffered from the economic crisis like Detroit.
"The show feels like it belongs there, like it was meant to be shown in that space and in that way it’s all the more important that KARST is exhibiting it as one of their first shows of 2016." — Louise Riou-Djukic
It makes you re-consider the urban space, it makes you think about the occupation of it and about being a human being in such a space and, in extension, the world.
Using color codes and rough shapes, the other pieces evoke the look of an urban space, the asphalt, the cement, the feeling that everything can look grey in the city especially when it’s emptied from people.
However, streets, even if they are grey and left empty, can become a playground for groups like skaters or street artists and Mike Ballard reminds us of that quite efficiently through simple shapes and chipped paint on worn wood blocks – reminiscent of skate park ramps.
Fréderic Plateus gives his contribution to the celebration of the urban space by bringing in bright colors with his PVC wall-mounted sculptures. They succeed indeed in playing with the idea of street art – the big fat colorful round letters brightening a grey wall.
He hits a spot as well in reminding us of old American Diners from when they often had waitresses on roller skates – using the same material as the shiny and bouncy plastic seats. You could almost hear the squeaky noise of sneakers against the PVC.
This exhibition really did shake me with an impressive ease. Some pieces will definitely be stuck in my head or even in my heart for a long time to come – Boarded 2, by Eb Itso is one that struck a cord – but even though I felt that some pieces were stronger than others, the strength of the show was how everything fits perfectly together.
KARST has definitely raised the bar with this show – the depiction of a decayed, abandoned, but celebrated cityscape assaults all your senses and resonates the history of the gallery space itself – which used to be an industrial building, now sited amongst new developments and regeneration projects.
The show feels like it belongs there, like it was meant to be shown in that space and in that way it’s all the more important that KARST is exhibiting it as one of their first shows of 2016 – I can only conclude by promoting it. Really guys, it’s definitely a must-see. Don’t miss it.
Reviewed by Louise Riou-Djukic, BA (Hons) Fine Art student. See her work at louiserioudjukic.wordpress.com.