Review: That Ever Increasing Distance at Supercollider

Conceptual art is a challenging discipline.  Perhaps this is why it is often side-stepped in favour of more accessible modes of expression.  Fortunately, Blackpool has Tom Ireland, champion of the genre, to give a voice to ideas which are difficult, if not impossible, to express through words alone.  That Ever Increasing Distance opened on Friday 7th December at Supercollider’s compact gallery at 59 Cookson Street.  Given the huge canvas which hangs across the doorway and windows, it’s a little difficult to recognise – a fitting entrance for an exhibition which asks you to look a little further, dig a little deeper. 

The current exhibition is inspired by the journey of Voyager 1, a probe launched in 1977 which is currently the most distant object built by humans.  Ireland has used his own piece, the eponymous That Ever Increasing Distance (2012) alongside the work of three other artists, each with a link to the subject of distance.  It is a credit to Ireland’s curatorial skills that the four pieces manage to work together while maintaining quite distinct identities in terms of format and content.

Jamie Crewe‘s A Perfumed Breeze (2011) combines clips from the 1947 film Black Narcissus to create a loop of intensely sensual imagery which is suggestive of a narrative but lacking the key human symbols/archetypes from the original.  The result is a short film which touches on universal themes while always maintaining a distance, in the same way that a distant landscape is beautiful but lacks the human tangibility of a portrait.  There’s an aloof quality behind the perfumed eroticism.

Historical distance is the difficulty facing Victoria Lucas in her short film, The Sinking (2009).  Armed with her great grandfather’s diary, which records his eyewitness account of the sinking of the Bismarck, Lucas sailed out onto the Atlantic, some 400 miles off the western tip of France, hoping to find the point where the German battleship sank.  There is a sense of loneliness in the stark stretches of ocean seen from the boat which contrasts with the sound of Lucas’s voice, reading a passage from the diary.  The words do manage to bridge the gap a little.  They’re not the gentle words of a man to his great granddaughter but a practical description of events.  Even so, they are his words.  They describe his observations.  In that, at least, there is a sense of connection; of place and humanity despite the distance of chronology.

Hondartza Fraga‘s Uncalibrated Melancholy (2009) is another video loop, this time containing images from the Cassini mission to Saturn.  The gritty, black and white views of the surface of Saturn, its rings and its moons are both familiar and alien at once.  There is none of the bright colour of a manipulated image and yet this is the unadulterated footage, at its most honest.  It seems to ask the viewer ‘What were you expecting?’ and left me considering the Hubble images of nebulae and whether the hunt for visual beauty is a bullet point on NASA’s mission objectives.

Finally, Ireland’s lunar panorama presents the symbol of an elusive horizon.  As Ireland explained, it’s about the horizons which we create but can’t ever reach.  He pointed out the appropriateness of analysing horizons in a town which is boxed in on three sides by land but presents us with a constantly changing horizon to the west.  There followed a fascinating discussion which covered narratives and relativity, time travel and parquet flooring but I won’t go into details.  If you would like to take up the challenge and can fathom the distance, take yourself to Cookson Street, peep behind the curtain and let your imagination lead you.

Supercollider is open Wednesday to Saturday, 12pm to 5pm.

That Ever Increasing Distance runs from 7th December 2012 to 5th January 2013.



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