Arches Live Saturday

Blog by Gareth K Vile | 22 Sep 2010
  • The Arches

Having explored my own inner demons on Friday night – it appears that I can appear on stage without staining either the chair or my trousers too heavily – I took Saturday to wander around Arches Live’s installations.  Kicking off with Inbox may not have been the best choice directly after dinner: a black room housed a single video image of a woman slowly unfurling white material from her mouth. Striking at first, it soon became nauseating, as if the endless thread was spooling around her throat and into her stomach, her gentle plying of the thread becoming a desperate attempt to remove a choking, poisonous vomit. That the thread appeared to unfold across the walls, forming a curling, desperate narrative of half-considered words added to the sinister oppression: a soundtrack of an electronic voice that monitored her behaviour plunged me into paranoia.

Next stop, a mystical exploration of Hopscotch from JC Marshall. This sardonic joke, contained perfectly in one of the Arches’ brick chambers like a lurking medieval anchorite, purported to explain why the child’s game had been banned – esoteric numerology was discovered in the grid, the rejection of the natural order in the turns – and linked it to Gnosticism, abstract maths and eastern religions. If the texts are deliberately confusing – they are, after all, philosophical extracts from an alternative history – the display of banned books, tagged shut and locked into a portable library – was another chilling image that resonated far beyond the serious humour.

Finally, Iain Campbell’s Not With (Music). In many ways, this is the most trenchant of the three pieces. Created by a musician, it seeks to express how music, once the purpose of the record industry, has become a mere by-product to an industry, as he explains, that has become more about manufacturing demand that supply. It’s an ambitious peek at late consumerism – the exhibits make an explicit link between facile consumption and the shit that comes out the other end – that includes fragmented tunes from Alicia Keyes, alienated audience applause and amps that radiate silence. Despite a sneaky wit behind it all – Monster Munch have rarely been used so evocatively - Not With (Music) asks some disturbing questions about entertainment, and the politics of the music industry.

Anyway, that’s what I did with my weekend: took a quick tour into dystopia, alienation and depression, with the odd hysterical laugh at the expense of the censor. I could have done the same thing with copious quantities of alcohol. The advantage of art is that you get to remember it afterwards, and spend less time moaning about a headache.