BAS8 1: Things with pixels

As Southampton is hosting British Art Show 8 for the next few months, it was kind of inevitable that I’d post something about it, and not just the quantity and quality of wine-and-nibbles on opening night. Not having heard of any of the artists, and having avoided spoilers by not searching for details, I had no particular expectations other than it would be new, it would be varied, and it would be interesting. So, where to start?

Well, I’m not usually a fan of film/video art – I don’t know why, but it generally doesn’t grab me. I certainly see no inherent reason why it shouldn’t – maybe I want a narrative, or maybe it’s something else and I just need to put some effort in. So, I went back when it was quieter and did exactly that – and I was pleasantly surprised, with two pieces standing out as my BAS8 favourites so far.

1. Feed Me (Rachel Maclean)

Feed Me is a film looking at commercialisation, consumerism and infantilisation, and it does so over an hour of candy-colour-saturated, gloriously designed (oh the work that must have gone into it) creepy oddness. Sticking with the no-spoilers thought, all I’m going to say is that it’s the best thing I’ve seen yet at BAS8 and well worth getting to the City Gallery and grabbing a bean-bag for the duration.

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A still from Feed Me featuring the artist Rachel Maclean

2. A Crack in the Light (Imogen Stidworthy)

This is something very different – dark, largely non-narrative, historical and subdued. It is a multi-part video based around the experiences of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, an author whose work I find deeply affecting, and a bit of a personal hero of mine. At the core of the installation is a large-scale, highly detailed 3D scan of a piece of prison bread fromĀ  Solzhenitsyn’s last meal in the USSR before his exile in 1974. Aside from the poignancy of the story, and the calm-but-haunting way the installation has been put together, I am intrigued by how much could be derived from an object with no intrinsic value. Just the idea that this was what he chose to pocket as a memento intrigues me – or was it all that he could take from the gulag..?

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Solzhenitsyn’s bread projected onto my hand. I had awe-face, but it was dark and there was no-one else to see.

More soon from BAS8 and its Fringe (official and otherwise)

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