A Conspiracy of Detail @ Mackintosh Museum, until 29 Sep

Review by Adam Benmakhlouf | 26 Aug 2013

The four tapering support beams in GSA’s Mackintosh Museum truncate themselves just shy of the ceiling. They’re just for show. So A Conspiracy of Detail, a group show on the implications of adornment and ornamentation, is a bit of a self-reflective moment for The Mack.

In this dignified space, it’s with a cheeky excitement that Hew Locke forms a queen’s head from bungee cord hooks, baby dolls and costume jewellery. It’s a hoarder’s fabulously overgrown Christmas wreath of cheap tat.

More bric-a-brac abounds in Pio Abad's installation. A fantastically deadpan pamphlet contextualises the absurdity of actual, remade and plausible imaginings of the artefacts from the reign of former Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos. With objects like a CCTV camera clad in little seashells, Abad creates an atmosphere of sinister eccentricity.

Razor-edge humour continues with Alex Pollard’s doormat. Adorned with a caricature of himself, it’s ‘decorated’ with dirt and chewing gum. And there’s a definite, if perverse pleasure in an artwork you can really wipe your feet on.

On opposite walls, Karin Ruggaber and Jonathan Baldock’s respective works share a ghostly reminder of the sense of lost knowledge of meaning or function. The careful placement of Ruggaber’s variously earthy, pastel and flesh-coloured concrete relief sculptures seems dictated by some forgotten custom.

Across the room, Jonathan Baldock’s electric blue curios might be for agricultural use or ancient ceremonial wear. At the point specific use is lost, the ornamental inserts itself. Utility of design becomes decorative form.

In the midst of A Conspiracy of Detail, Josh Blackwell's embroidered poly bags float on the wall with the detachment of an introvert’s intensely felt stanzas. Uselessly stitched-up, adornment lends a value that exists in itself, beyond obvious function. Without weighing more than polyethylene film and thread, they state simply that to adorn is to make meaning. [Adam Benmakhlouf]