Dan Auluk is an artist-curator living and working in Birmingham, UK.
Auluk's arts practice is interested in the making of art activity (as medium) and the experiences shared through experimental collaborative approaches. The art activity includes experimenting with text, spoken word, sound, video, performance, participation and intervention, manifesting as live art collaborative performances that invite audiences to take part. This live art attempts to blur the boundaries betweeen artist, curator and audience, exploring alternate ways of activating spaces and audiences and destablizing the conventions we are used to, when experiencing art in an exhibition context.
“The air smelled of smoke and ruin...”
Act One: Zombie Poverty, ARTicle Gallery, The School of Art, BCU. 29th Oct – 20th Nov 2013.
Review by Sally A Bailey.
It was always going to be a difficult journey.
This was an ambitious exhibition in three parts – a show that precociously opened and closed on the same night, leading into a series of micro-residencies, and culminating in a second opening of the unpredicted and undirected outcomes.
This was not to be an exhibition based on polite curatorial etiquette – Auluk was out to disrupt right from the off, with this highly experimental de/evolving residency programme ultimately defining the success or otherwise of his endeavour. His strategy was risky, and his enthusiasm admirable.
The gallery space is heavily populated; disparate objects made and remade, found and reformed. Film works colliding, visually layering, physically obscuring. Appropriated plaster cast statues from the Birmingham Institue Of Art and Design collection incongruously placed. Noise. Noise. Noise. A small vase of freesias perfume the air with their fragile, heady aroma. The smell of danger persists.
We stand here unsure. Unsure of what we are being invited to see, and unsure of how to see it. Above our heads, huge glass globes threaten to fall from the lights that are unable to fulfil their function. We stand here in an unnatural night-time, a permanent half-darkness; the borrowing of light from the projectors our only comfort.
It all feels very precarious. Reach out and touch me. Simultaneously drawn in and shut out.
The first work encountered is an audio/visual exhibit by Oscar Cass-Darweish, based on his
experiences in Palestine. The faintest of illuminations on the ipad screen, echoing the echoed, fading until lost. Lingering traces, blurred spaces and whispered shadows – the piece is as quiet as it is sophisticated, as troubling as it is soothing. It is touchable, but mostly remains untouched.
The main exhibition space is dominated by the collected film projections; the angle of the projection is skewed, and uninvited sculptural forms unashamedly puncture the picture space. The film works are disparate and unattributed – but hugely successful in offering a path through this desolate landscape. The works by Michael Robinson are particularly key; “riding the fine lines between humour and terror, nostalgia and contempt, ecstasy and hysteria ...fusing popular film and television culture, sound and music to create a hyper-real and mesmerizing disruption and dislocation from the original source.”
Opposite this is Words and Music (2010), by Elizabeth McAlpine, a screen-printed score and
accompanying orchestral instructions that allude to the potentiality of its performance - but for now it acts as a silent score to this exhibition experience. I find the weight and quality of the paper completely mesmerising, and am instantly troubled by the inappropriateness of this response.
Intersecting the gallery space is a sculpture by Megan Albright, formed of found breeze blocks,
Perspex and bin liners. There is a tension in the piece that further acts as a barrier in the room suggesting movement, it remains static. We remain static with it; it cannot help us find our exit after all.
Interference. Static. Pulse. Strobe. Breathe. On the TV monitor, Obama walks away. Walks away slowly. The slide projector provides the background hum of the no-longer needed.
Auluk has been very clever. He promised to keep a measured curatorial distance, seeing his role as that of facilitator, not instructor. But his fingerprints are all over this – those that linger long enough will be touched too. Auluk has redefined the accepted parameters of the ‘group show’, and raised very intriguing questions as to the value of exhibiting works in flux, and then allowing a show to evolve from the energy that is created from that. It was a dangerous strategy – but it worked.
An arresting performance by Mark Ellis is the main draw at the second opening, as we begin to feel that connections can indeed be made here, and that all hope is not lost. Only the bravest venture,one by one, behind the billowing curtain to be tenderly embraced and to passively receive the gently whispered words from Ellis. The emergent recipients of this encounter appear comforted. For those less brave, the vaguest of outlines give only the vaguest of suggestions; there is the anticipation of events that may be beyond our control, but not beyond our understanding. And it is at this very point that Ellis himself emerges; wrapped sheath-like and suspended in the fabric of the curtain – his
nakedness providing a visual reference point to our own vulnerability within this intimate and troubling arena. We stand, as zombies, silent and motionless; unable to avert our gaze from the flesh offered to us.
And so we are able to leave sated. We have acknowledged our appetites, and found sustenance here
Review of Act 1: Zombie Poverty (Part 2) by Sally Bailey