With plenty of galleries and art fairs closed for good by the vagaries of the current recession, some might see it as a surprise that Soraya Rodriguez’s Zoo has survived at all. No longer billed as an art fair, Zoo 2009 (16-19 October 2009) was restructured to include more curated projects and a section given over to multiples. Becoming more ‘educational’ is, of course, one way of securing sponsorship when the commercial sector has become both less willing and less able to support shebangs of this type. The location for Zoo had also changed, although this had nothing to do with the recession; the event is now taking place in a dirty former industrial space at the southern end of Shoredtich High Street, on the edge of both the city and east London.
Of the curated exhibitions, the outstanding show was organised by The Lux in collaboration with students from Goldsmiths College. The main work on show in Film As A Subversive Art was changed each day, with residues of previous displays left in the space. I went on Monday 19 October when the featured work was Francisco Valdes Reagan (2003); this takes a possession scene from Hollywood horror blockbuster The Exorcist (1973) and replaces the filmed content with a series of animated drawings (the sound appeared to be identical to the original). On another level of the same building, Nicholas Burne and Anthea Hamilton’s Calypsos used a series of four TV screens to good effect in the space allotted to it, but wasn’t to my taste; this show was curated by Studio Voltaire.
Rob Tufnell’s attempt at an alternative take on psychedelia, Altogether Elsewhere, didn’t really work in its dirty environment and disappointed me in the choice of works – despite Jennifer West’s film projections being fun. As for The Filmic Conventions ‘curated’ by FormContent, this was an unmitigated disaster. There were two projections but most of the works were displayed on single monitors with a single set of headphones. This resulted in it being difficult to take in the works because there were too many people visiting the space to be comfortably accommodated with such a restrictive number of headphones; having two headphones connected to each monitor and more seating would have done much to resolve the problem. The films themselves were uniformly dire. The only merit I could see in the FormContent fiasco was that it prepared me for the room of editions being sold by 176, Camden Arts Centre, Chisenhale Gallery, Dundee Contemporary Arts, ICA, Other Criteria, Paul Stolper, Peer, Serpentine Gallery, Studio Voltaire, The Multiple Store, White Cube and Whitechapel Gallery. To describe these displays as ‘depressing’ would be an exercise in understatement.
The prize exhibitions by Scoli Acosta and Clunie Reid were better than much of what was on the trade stands; the latter were almost as flatulent as the room of editions and multiples. Zoo is often seen as an opportunity for younger gallerists to flex their muscles and strut their sense of visual flair, but this year it was an old hand who had the only decent stand. Documentary material based around veteran live artist Stuart Brisley formed the core of England & Co’s display; but there was also work by the younger artists Chris Kenny, Georgia Russell, Harald Smykla and Jason Wallis–Johnson. Jane England looked to me to be far and away the oldest person manning a stand, but her eye is clearly far sharper than those of the younger gallerists.
“Former’ art fairs like Zoo aren’t the best way of taking in visual culture: there is too much too see, and since 99% of art is shit, the sheer volume of bad work makes it hard to appreciate the little that is good. Still, judged on Zoo, if the world economy has double-pneumonia, then the art world has the black death! All of which goes to prove once again that the current fiscal crisis is a groove sensation!
And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – www.stewarthomesociety.org – you know it makes (no) sense!