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Ima-Abasi Okon | THE FOUNTAINS ARE DECORATIVE AND ARE NOT WATER PLAY AREAS

After recently working on an exhibition involving a lot of artworks and artists within a short period of time, I found myself invited to a new exhibition at Supercollider.

Following a day of ‘talking art’, standing up, and praying for a brew, I stumbled into the always impressive independent art space that is Supercollider; partly out of curiosity for the work but also as the only independent space dedicated to the showcasing of contemporary arts practice in Blackpool, I feel a responsibility as an artist to attend as often as possible.

The exhibition was part of the Supercollider micro residency programme (an instant point of interest to see how others work with time restraint), which aims to offer artists a short, intensive period of time and space to create new works. The micro residency has a deliberately short timescale, ten days(-ish), which mimics a holiday length or a ‘short-break’. I’m always intrigued by showcases at Supercollider as I am usually guaranteed to get a bit of a lesson in process and how all strands of an art establishment exist to challenge and communicate with the public. By this I mean that Supercollider seems to consider all aspects of its programme based on its location. Although nationally visual, it is clearly visible as a Blackpool space.

London-based artist Ima-Abasi Okon was invited to make new work from an open call submission process. The resulting exhibition features an inter-related grouping of sculptural and video elements. Okon’s works feels confident and expressive in such a way that seems to highlight basic materials; whether that be wood, varnish, plaster and so on, but also expressive as to how these build relationships with each other and anthropomorphic qualities through applying and reapplying combinations of ‘things’.

The work’s (and exhibition’s) roots lie largely in language, and specifically its unstable state. There is a Mel Bochner work from the late 60’s which is a text piece which says LANGUAGE IS NOT TRANSPARENT, which I think is important to consider in relation to the show; language is a solid thing, it exists and has real presence and has to be dealt with. Despite this, language is not static, stable and is certainly fluid – it shifts in the presence of context and cultural difference etc.

The film, which acts as a soundtrack for the show, features the singer D’Angelo and is the video for his 1999 song ‘Untitled (How Does it Feel?)’, which sounds like the title for an artwork but also poses a question to the audience directly. Considered in relation to the other elements in the show and the nature of the gallery experience generally, the title has real resonance.

The video sees D’Angelo, naked, oiled and ripped (phwoar). His body is intense and verges on sculpture – indeed the reduction of visual tropes in the video means a total focus on his body; a self-appointed ‘object’ almost. In this sense, language is totally fluid, with the video being abstracted from popular culture and re-cast within art’s sphere of influence. D’Angelo is suddenly Michelangelo’s David, only better; more flesh and sexier. Whether it’s D’Angelo or Michelangelo, the body here is a prop, as referenced in the film.

Alongside the film of D’Angelo is footage of a mobile bomb detector being tested. These detectors, sold by (the now convicted fraudster) Jim McCormick were found to be fakes (but not after he had sold £55m worth of them and contributed to potentially thousands of deaths in Iraq). These devices, despite being sold as functioning, were in fact totally devoid of functionality – a mere prop, an object….an artwork. Their origin was a gold ball detector, which was converted to ‘detect’ bombs – again, language is fluid and unstable. Ultimately, in this instance, this instability and fluidity led to real, stable, permanent things: death.

The film is difficult to digest, like objects maybe.

The sculptural objects are all casts, again, stand-ins. They are approximations of things which exist but they are not definite, holding on instead to ambiguity. They are, like the bomb detector and D’Angelo, props, objects, artworks.

To produce new work/s in ten days is often a daunting task, but also one that adds excitement to the decision making process for a creative brain. The space feels self-assured and deliberate in its design. It could easily have been overkill or under sold, but the exhibition is balanced and actively vague, much like the notion of language itself.

 

THE FOUNTAINS ARE DECORATIVE AND ARE NOT WATER PLAY AREAS is on at Supercollider from 12 to 28 June.

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