LIFE IS OVER! If You Want It @ Cooper Gallery
LIFE IS OVER! If You Want It sees Tracey McKenna and Edwin Janssen use the exhibition as a space for discussion and reflection, staging various events and talks while working in situ for the show’s duration. Large-scale drawings reference the clear-eyed optimism of John & Yoko’s 1970s WAR IS OVER posters, whose black and white graphic clarity contrasts with the often fuzzy ethical questions raised around the subject of assisted suicide; the sloganeering seemingly rendered null and void when faced with such uncertainty. The artists’ recent familial experiences inform a display combining slide projections, drawings, bulletin boards and borrowed historical paintings with particular emphasis being placed on vanitas artworks from Janssen’s native Netherlands. A diverse collection of postcards, compiled during the show, references assorted art historical sources from the classical to the humble, the avant garde to the kitsch, slashes on a Fontana canvas sharing space with Miffy the rabbit mutely contemplating a Mondrian.
The wine-quaffing medic in Jan Steen’s 17th Century painting The Doctor’s Visit faces the poignant scenes depicted in the slide show Life, Death and Beauty: The Invisible Looks Back, a series made by Janssen in his parent’s home after his father’s death by voluntary euthanasia. In the projection Life, Death and Beauty: Fear, No Fear McKenna shows a series of drawings and texts developed over the course of the exhibition through dialogue with visitors, the artwork developing as discussions offer more material to document and reflect upon. Throughout the show, the extensive programme of talks and activities, the project is revealed as something open-ended, fluid and amorphous, its meaning located somewhere in the interactions between anyone who chooses to participate. Death is not presented as an event to happen to any one individual on their own. [Ben Robinson]