Friday, 24 October 2008

Illuminations by Trace @ ServicePoint Building, Whitworth Street

One of my favourite exhibition experiences of my whole life happened in one room of the Pompideu centre in spring of 2006. Rodney Graham’s film Rheinmetal/Victoria 8 ( 2003 ) was a projection of white powder slowly falling onto and settling on a typewriter. It was eerie and beautiful, a significant personal experience with a work of art, that I have never really spoken about but have carried with my since that time. Some of the aspects which so touched me about Graham's piece seem to be repeated in Illuminations at the ServicePoint Buildings.

I haven’t enjoyed, and been impressed by, an art exhibition as much as Illuminations in an awfully long time. Consisting of work from over 30 recent graduates from the Slade School of Fine Art, they exhibit under the collective name Trace. Although not all of the exhibits are of the same high quality or originality, nearly all are evocative and interesting. The decision to place the show within a blacked out and disused building is rather clever. Individually illuminated pieces seem eerie and beautiful, and the darkness covers a multitude of sins. Weird corporate fixtures and fittings sink into the background, loom strangely and unimportantly in the corner of your eye and while also adding to the whole experience. Another significance of the blackout/illumination choice is that it makes the exhibition difficult to photograph, eliminating one of my major bugbears with peoples behaviour in gallery spaces.

To wander around the building in near dark is a wonderful experience. The projected art is ghostly and beautiful, and seems to bring down a comfortable silence and air of contemplation. I also like that it is not a circular exhibition, that when you get to the end of the exhibition you do not spill out at some predetermined destination complete with shop. You have to retrace your steps, revisiting exhibits which you passed perhaps only minutes earlier. With video art this is a real gift, since with luck you find yourself presented with parts which you may not have seen again. With the most beautiful ones, such as Sam Belinfante's Tube Lines or Permille Leggat Ramfelt and Richard Bevan's Point this is a real gift.

So go find this exhibition and have a relaxed wander, free of excessive curatorial direction and do the interpretation for yourself. It's great, and I hope this style of exhibition can take over from the prissy, didactic and tired trends that seem to rule the roost at the moment. Illumnations is at 4 Whitworth Street West, the Deansgate Station end, and runs till the 30th of November. It is open Mon-Fri 12-7pm, Sat/Sun 1-5pm.

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