You don’t necessarily need drugs to get high, as Ann Lislegaard’s art work proves. According to a page that is no longer available on norway.org (a Norwegian government website in various languages): “Bellona, the fictional city of Samuel R. Delany’s 1974 science fiction cult classic Dhalgren is a place beyond reason, where time and space is out of joint and architectural fixtures seem to be in constant flux and transformation. In Lislegaard’s video animation installation, Bellona is a psychological space, in which norms and standards seem to dissolve into a chaos of anti-hierarchical conditions.”
What norway.org has to say is fair enough if you want Lislegaard’s work explained ‘rationally’, but I found it more enjoyable to let the constantly moving images trip me out. Bellona is a psychedelic groove sensation, and for me it worked best at the opening of the current Raven Row show, when the room was very effectively blacked out because it was dark outside. I went to see it again at the weekend but there was a lot of sunlight bleeding through the shutters that covered the windows, and this reduced the intensity of the flashback effects the film delivered. You have to sit and let yourself go with this one, but once you adjust to the pace, the three screen looped projection will give you hours of drug free hallucinations.
Lislegaard’s other film currently on show at Raven Row is based on and named after J. G. Ballard’s sci-fi novel The Crystal World. Simon Sellars on the Ballardian website says: “I fully agree with her (Lislegaard’s) view of the novel: it’s a ‘mental space, a state of mind’, and that is really emphasised by her iterative work, which constantly chases its own tail. It’s shown on two screens, side by side, and takes place inside a modernist hotel which residually succumbs to the crystallising process described in the novel. Scenes loop back and subsequently fade and buckle from screen to screen under supersaturation of light, forcing you to constantly question the veracity of what’s come before, and where you are in the loop. Mirror images from one screen to another split off into parallel worlds/scene..” The Crystal World didn’t do much for me at the Raven Row opening, but going back and seeing it with daylight bleeding into the room, I was getting flashes of colour as I looked at this black and white work. Far out!
Just to clarify, Sellars is mistaken when he describes the building in Lislegaard’s film as a hotel. On the web page I’ve quoted him from, he reproduces the following Murry Guy gallery promotional blurb for the Crystal World film: “Lislegaard’s animation directly references the Brazilian architect Lina Bo Bardi’s 1951 Glass House, and the work of Robert Smithson and Eva Hesse, who investigated crystalline and organic structures as a means of articulating nonlinear time…” Bo Bardi was an important modernist architect, and the Glass House was her home, not a hotel. Esther da Costa Meyer in Harvard Design Magazine (Number 16, Winter/Spring 2002) says of the Glass House: “Though now part of the fashionable suburb of Morumbi, the Glass House once hovered over the remnants of the original rain forest… Suspended high above a sea of green, the building resembles an International Style treehouse. A swaying metal staircase connects the winding path to the living spaces above… Even though the entire area is now built up and the wildcats are long since gone, the lots are large and densely planted, and the Glass House is almost invisible from the road… the contrast between the abstract aesthetic of steel and glass and the lush green of the forest was an important element … For structure, Bo Bardi opted for that of the paradigmatic Dom-Ino house: spindly supports sandwiched daringly between two slabs of concrete. Thin, Corbusian pilotis, set back from the perimeter to permit a free facade, raise the glass box elegantly aloft. Le Corbusier was an obvious point of reference…”
Lislegaard also has an audio installation on at Raven Row, a condensation of the soundtracks to various sci-fi films entitled Science Fiction_3112. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to derive any flashback effects from this piece, and got far less neural stimulation from it than Lislegaard’s film-works. Exhibited alongside Lislegaard are Thomas Bayrle and international audio collective Ultra-Red. The documentation of Ultra-Red’s art activism left me cold. I presume participating in one of their public events is more enthralling. Bayrle’s hybrid minimal-pop sculptures showed the Raven Row space off to fantastic effect; forget the work (I find Bayrle boring), just check out the beautiful architectural achievement it so effectively sets off. The space is very light and airy, and there are many beautiful details; take a close look, for example, at the exquisite handrail on the stairs that take you down to the back gallery in which Bayrle’s work is shown.
Thomas Bayrle, Ann Lislegaard and Ultra-Red are on at Raven Row, 56 Artillery Lane, London E1 7LS, until 2 August 2009.
And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – www.stewarthomesociety.org – you know it makes (no) sense!