Tipping Point @ CFCCA, Manchester, until 16 Mar

Review by Lauren Strain | 07 Mar 2014

Bringing together three artists with ongoing relationships to both the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art and each other, Tipping Point asks us to consider the moments at which the slightest touch can alter the course of things.

Of the trio, Jamie Lau is perhaps most straightforward in approach. In his simple mechanical structure, life visually hangs in the balance: an asymmetric A-frame supports the lowering of a lamp by its cord into a shallow well. The piece is based on the story of Jeffrey Bush, a young man who was swallowed by a sinkhole that opened up beneath his bed in Florida last year. Andrew Lim's hypnotic kinetic work, in which four electric fans are pointed strategically at the wall to keep a length of ribbon fluttering along the perimeter of the room, is also an explicit demonstration of limbo, of a delicate equilibrium that could be disrupted at any point.

But it is Cindie Cheung's assembly of five televisions, screening silenced photoshoots of women responding to unheard directions – dampening their lips, blinking sleepily and nipping at the nubs of cigarettes – that is most provocative. Partnered with a series of wall-mounted panels that collage together swatches of the kind of cheap materials associated with hobbycraft and dress-up – holographic sticky paper, diamanté and scratchy, fake lace – the 'tipping point' here is the one that takes the young female out of the realm of naïve, adolescent play and into participation in her own sexualisation.

Items that seem innocent in the context of an accessories store – pink metallic stickers with bevelled golden rims; glossy, oversized charms – take on a sinister insouciance when applied so gauchely to these flat, shiny boards. To one, a fabric badge of the type sewn on rucksacks or swimming costumes seems cruelly pinioned. 

Cheung's soundtracks for each video sharpen the schism, as the women flirt forcedly to the sound of gracelessly played recorders – the signature sound of school. This is an affecting environment, a charged display of individually unremarkable items that, placed in dialogue, tell a quiet, concerning story. 

Tue-Sun, 10am-5pm, Free