Human Nature at Pump House Gallery

From: Eva
Category: Exhibitions
Date: 23 May 2005


Human Nature Pump House Gallery http://www.humannature.org.uk

It’s a somewhat obvious idea to stage a show about ‘human nature’ in a park, but on the other hand it would have been a predictable ‘detournement’ to have placed it in the middle of the city. This show isn’t much about the nature of being human, but about artists responding to a conventional understanding of that ‘nature’ is. So animal skins and tree hugging feature loud.

Marcus Coates’ video is strong. Such a nice young man getting carried away with his shamanistic calling. As much about the audience and context of his performance as the event itself. He just about gets away with it not feeling like he’s mocking the people who’ve turned up to see him talk to animal spirits in a Liverpool council flat. He also goes for it enough in his stag performance that it (narrowly) avoids looking too ham or ironic. Although the video is very humorous and there are obvious themes spinning off for discussion, I’m still not sure whether it was a succinct enough idea at base, but enough elements to make it video work to remember.

Gitte Villesen’s video is a simple if creepy. She turns her camcorder on a young man who’s trying to pick her up at a Danish funfair. At first it looks like the piece is staged but you realise quick enough that this guy is for real. He’s clearly had a bit too much to drink and is going for it, grinning away, trying to seduce Gitte through the camera. It’s hilarious and explicitly shows how annoying and pathetic the persistent chatter-upper can be, this man in particular, but the work is also too easy. The success of the piece relies entirely on the extreme performance of the young man, and though he delivers, that’s not enough. It works because she didn’t stage it, but it also fails for the same reason. Maybe it might work better in a context where we could see the rest of her work.

Ellen Lesperance and Jeanine Oleson’s photographs are nicely composed but didn’t really do it for me. Tree hugging, (menstrual?) blood washing in the river, Native-American-style feathers and get-up. Women in ‘Nature’ with the capital ‘N’. In the same space was a video and sound work by Yoshua Okon embedded in a tree. Nicely crafted. Texturally too close to L and O’s photos and I didn’t realise until just now looking at the Press Release that it wasn’t by them.

The Morisons’ vinyl record was stuck. We disobeyed the notice asking us to go down three floors to reception to ask them to push the needle by doing it ourselves, but then the acoustics clashed with Okon’s work so I couldn’t work out what the piece was trying to do. It was a soft piece that should have been placed in a quieter room. The Morisons also showed a series of square postcards that they’ve been sending to a select mailing list from travels in Europe. These were displayed in a glass case with only the top card visible, so I couldn’t really work out what I was meant to be seeing. Aesthetically the work looked like conceptual art, with neat black text on white, but I didn’t appreciate the concept.

Leaving the gallery there were all sorts of strange goings on in Battersea Park. A Brazilian religious group with arms raised reciting prayer; further a woman practising Tosca in pink short while playing badminton with her kids. People in parks are strange.