BANG: In Holding a smile for as long as I am able (2010), the viewer witnesses the artist doing exactly that: eyes cast down, hair flopping, Linington has the concentration of a choirboy.
Space in Between, London E8
Until 27 November 2010
If you do not live near E8, the best way to approach Simon Linington’s new show at Space in Between is along the gloriously autumnal Regent’s Canal towpath from Islington to Hackney – a modest, two-mile challenge to get you in the right frame of mind.
Linington’s work examines human endeavour and failure. He graduated from Chelsea in 2006 and this year received the Emerging Artist's Bursary Award from the Royal British Society of Sculptors.
He has famously recreated Evil Knievel’s failed motorbike jump in his work Last of the Gladiators (2009); as well as the capsizing of the cruise vessel MS Explorer, which ended up sinking after hitting an iceberg.
But at some point a light bulb went on in Linington’s head: what of his own endeavours and failures, both as a human being and as an artist – and at what juncture do success and failure part company, if at all?
This is Space in Between’s second show in their new space – Linington was in talks with the gallery about presenting his work there before it opened. The result is BANG
– a show comprising five new works, which examine Linington’s mission to define human endeavour and failure by measuring his own performance of certain physical activities, including an audio piece that involves shutting all the windows and doors of his house.
The gallery itself is a compact space, with a counter running between viewer and exhibits.
On the end walls are companion video documentaries – one featuring the artist trying to maintain a smile for as long as possible; the second video shows Linington in boxer shorts, in the process of putting on every item of black clothing he possesses.
He admits he was unsure whether he would manage to wear all the clothes at once – as an artist his motto is, ’Success is possible, but failure more likely’; and it is the articulation of this that drives him. However, Linington says he does not believe art has to ‘work’.
The title of the show BANG
is intentionally Google-friendly, but also embraces other connotations of the word: cartoonish violence, sex, drugs – all the windows and doors in his house shutting simultaneously.
The work in the show is engagingly child-like – childhood is, of course, when human beings begin to measure their capabilities and it appears Linington has returned to this early learning process to re-examine it from his now-adult perspective.
In Holding a smile for as long as I am able (2010), the viewer witnesses the artist doing exactly that: eyes cast down, hair flopping, Linington has the concentration of a choirboy. After several minutes, the lips quiver over bared teeth, the eyes twitch – we recognise the social rictus we are all guilty of passing off as a genuine smile. Apparently, Linington’s jaw ached for several days after filming the doc.
The second video documentary Putting on All My Black Clothes (2010) shows the artist bundling himself up slowly until, swaddled in the darker elements of his wardrobe, Linington is reduced from a classically athletic figure to a helpless, chubby toddler. No longer the commonly perceived masculine ideal, he becomes diminished, imprisoned and vulnerable – barely able to move, balance or defend himself if need be. The piece adroitly articulates the limitations of human physicality and how our physical form defines others’ perceptions of us.
Facing the viewer, a collection of nine apparent self-portraits (of varying skill and accomplishment) runs along the back wall. The title A Whisper Down The Lane (2010) is a clue as to how this set of portraits came into being – if you are familiar with the playground game Chinese Whispers, it helps.
Peep over the counter and you will see a lump of clay abandoned on the floor, which Linington rolled along the pavement from his Mare Street studio to the gallery, in an attempt to link the two spaces. The work also references the myth of Sisyphus, damned for eternity to push a boulder up a hill, only to see it tumble back down again repeatedly.
Rolling My Body Weight in Clay (2010) also reveals that – without a chassis of bones or a tankful of juice – the human form really is a paltry thing. All 65 kilos of Linington’s youthful frame are compressed into a hunched pair of shoulders supported by a few flaps of petrified epidermis – almost totally without stature or recognisable significance, apart from the artist’s fingermarks.
It is a potent and humbling memento mori: despite our highly evolved, 21st century egos, essentially we are but a nub of flesh.
What we achieve with it – and the fingerprints we leave behind – form the basis of human endeavour and our life’s work.
runs until 27 November and is open on Saturdays, 12-6pm – or by appointment.
Space in Between
Unit 26 Regents Studios
8 Andrews Road
London E8 4QN