LAM LAM IG POMF, Testing Grounds, South Hill Park 2011.

With its myriad of multi–function, pseudo spaces, South Hill Park, was the location for the first event in Testing Ground’s 2011 programme, conceived around the concept of Failure. South Hill Park’s Outi Remes and William Trevlyan have created a uniquely facilitative context for experimental live performance to take place, drawing a truly eclectic audience. Amidst a back drop of adults dressed in scout uniforms, and milling theatre goers the audience was led to the ornate Haversham to view Kirstin Sherman & Natasha Rosling’s Lam Lam Ig Pomf.

Their dada title didn’t disappoint. The pair transformed the panelled octagonal space with a series of squeaky, scratchy surfaces and squidgy sculptural forms. Six teenage girls wearing black, complete with gaffa tape faux protective headgear, also occupied the space.

As the girls begin to move, with heavy feet and vacuous expressions they manipulate the tactile, cylindrical sculptures to make both shapes and non-shapes, coming together in an understated Hokey-Cokey formation using the sculptures to make delicate drawings within the space. As the nostalgic references to school and childhood pour in they are perfectly off-set with sinister tones such as the kitsch noose-like shapes leant against the walls.

Lam Lam Ig Pomf was a beautiful portrait of adolescence, and a fair handed one too, full of both fairytale and unwelcome recollections of gym class. Their performers moved in Morse code and used their glib Vanessa Beecroftesque facial expressions to focus the audience on their synchronicities, executed with amateur perfection, neither under nor over-rehearsed, with neither mistakes nor beauty in their routine. The evocation of childhood devoid of nostalgia was an exquisite triumph. Timing, motion and movement formed a perfectly naive syntax on which the audience could project their own, personal flashbacks.

In the short performance the pair also touched on some of the heavyweight questions within live art. A carefully toed line of who was laughing at whom, their perfect pregnant pauses allayed any doubts in the minds of the audience as to whether or not, they were in on the joke and furthermore that they were injecting their own irony on top of Rosling and Sherman’s conception. There was a beautiful moment when Rosling stood at the back of the room watching intently as her performers glided over one another like dominos to collapse in a line. As she stared into the middle distance she appeared as one confronting six of her former selves, splayed out in the mirrored wall of a ballet class.

Rhythmic gymnastics, Michael Lehmann’s Heathers, the Olympics, synchronised swimming, puberty, 60’s sculpture, the British school system, Jacques Tati and Dali; the references were all there, broad and plentiful, bound in a seamless enigmatic portrait of a performance. Sherman and Rosling have created a fully immersive environment. Their world is composed of cherry picked aspects of daily life; the banal, the delicate and the downright ludicrous. They have crafted a visual language, which we can understand, but only they can speak; a master class in how to do things badly - well.

Corrine Felgate 2011

 

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The constellation of craftsmanship, art, consumer goods and machine was the domain of The Breakers / De Branding. The objects that Feigl and Rosling selected from the Zuiderzeemuseum collection cover the entire spectrum set out above. From ships and ropes, compasses and lamps to statues and paintings.

Natasha Rosling makes large coloured sculptures of wood, metal, textile and paint. Human beings can also be part of the sculpture: suspended from it inside a pair of trousers they have been sewn into, or carried through the streets. Her evident emphasis on the primacy of the senses was the reason for inviting her to take part in The Breakers / De Branding. The exhibition centres on taking objects from the Zuiderzeemuseum that, up to now, have been stored out of sight or rendered harmless in a didactic museum display, and using them as material for a new work. Rosling begins by stacking objects against the front window of W139, and will work her way into the front space.

Zoro Feigl 's works render force visible. The power of an effective piece of machinery is fully absorbed by its function. Feigl transforms this power into exhausting visibility. In a sense, his pieces are all fountains: phenomenon somewhere between propulsion and gravity. Like Sugarstorm, an open candyfloss machine that sends a whirlwind of pink cotton candy spinning into the air through four ventilators, and keeps coming loose of the floor. Or Bouncing Balls, two pillars of silver inflatable balls that bounce on top of each other, driven by a crankshaft-motored drill. The gist of his work lies in the fact that you 're aware that the pieces just about hold together but, at any second, the engine could catch fire or a knot in the rope could bring the whole thing to a standstill. One of the pieces Feigl will create for The Breakers / De Branding, Feigl is a sea of pneumatically-driven rope waves in the rear space.

The industrial revolution gradually stripped human labour of its craft. It also disrupted the progressive evolution from tool to utensil to work of art. A blacksmith crafted his own hammers and tongs and because he wrought decorate fencing, and the weapons he made also possessed a certain elegance. Large sculptures and commissioned portraits, editions of saints and signboards were produced in artists studios and, within this context, there was no hard and fast distinction between functionality and beauty. However, with the advent and use of machines, this distinction became increasingly evident. Before the invention of the camera, the difference between visible and invisible could not be objectified. In a similar way, industrial production drove an immovable wedge between the originally progressive transition from tool to art object. Utensils are developed in line with a globally accepted set of quantifiable standards; art, on the other hand, seems solely to have become the terrain of assigned qualities. This crisis in the position of the visual arts is closely linked to the crisis in the current production and economy of consumer goods. After an optimistic start, the objective mission of industrialisation foundered in the contemporary economy of apparent free choice . Although the global development of technology and economics should lead to perfection and quality, instead the diseased fruits of the experience economy are spewed all over us. Truth be told, we only need one type of car and kind of ballpoint pen. Every outward variation of cutlery, folding chairs, telephones or computers is pointless and decadent. As long as industrial products are not purely anonymous and functional, they will continue to blank out the identification of essential human needs. Art can only unfold its essential power once we have literally achieved that super-human level of product development; until which time, it is doomed to a position of critique on the sidelines or the production of commodities.

Gijs Frieling, April 2008

 

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