Kate V Robertson @ Dundee Contemporary Arts

Kate V Robertson's installation in Dundee Contemporary Arts combines monumental scale with material precarity to provide insight into concepts of productive failure

Review by Colm Peare | 11 Jan 2018

In an interview with Kate V Robertson in this magazine six years ago there’s mention of the 'potential for failure inherent in her work.' In Robertson’s latest exhibition in DCA, this description feels close to the truth, but still requires some elaboration.

The use of negative space in This Mess is Kept Afloat alludes to failure, to incompleteness. A floor of concrete sculptures cast from discarded containers stretches out from a mural of boards pasted with the peachy paper of the Financial Times, left without print. A room of 6x4 tiles of unexposed photographic paper slowly changes from the light. The large resin rectangles that hang above form a mosaic suspended in the act of dispersal.

Robertson is clearly a tiler; she makes a whole out of separate parts. Artist, audience, environment and material work as equal, distinct tesserae to co-create her exhibition. The viewer can break concrete tiles to form new arrangements, the photographic paper darkens and the mural’s boards peel like old, colossal flyers. The tiling is a pressing comment on mass disposability but it also relinquishes dictatorial power from the artist.

It’s uncharacteristic for a space like DCA to initiate creativity rather than set its standards and consequently the pieces sit awkwardly in their setting. The work rejects the traditional notion that art has to be definite or conclusive, to be anything more than proposition.

The potential for failure is inherent in Robertson’s work, but not as we know it. Here, failure acts as the threshold to opportunity. Success is not presenting a perfected object or convincing an audience of a single perspective. Instead, the exhibition accepts plurality, decay and imperfection and is intensely human because of it.

Until 25 Feb, free http://www.dca.org.uk/whats-on/event/this-mess-is-kept-afloat