For their debut solo exhibition at the Ceri Hand Gallery, Nick Crowe and Ian Rawlinson presented a new body of work exploring issues of containment and release. A human figure sits concealed beneath a foil survival blanket that hums with the chirp of crickets whilst kaleidoscopic footage of a bridge being dismantled at night clangs and rattles in an adjoining space. This is a world in which action is entangled with nostalgia and a confusion between function and deployment is the norm.
The Hunters, a group of twelve coils of rope hung on a line of wall brackets, set the tone for the show. Suggestive of a group of disciples, the kit room of a mountain rescue team or local lynch mob it is a darkly foreboding work. A group of photographs, entitled Rope, make this outcome no more certain. Shot inside a trailer on a hillside in Poland during a workshop to teach rope ladder making the resultant images owe more to the language of soft core erotica than they do to the instructional manual.
Empire is a sculpture that consists of a garden chiminea utilised to present a video of a short performance. A naked man in some kind of admiral's hat is seen apparently in the process of preparing a 'set' and performing a puppet show. Representing perhaps everyone who ever fretted about their changing neighbourhood or their place in our fast paced developing world, the character in the film seems trapped as much by his clinging to the past as he is by the phantom of an encroaching future. And whilst we might enjoy his ham-fisted puppetry the silent theatre he presents is an over familiar tale, echoed in the human-scale figure placed beneath a survival blanket in the audio sculpture Citizenship. A thin tin foil sheet, reminiscent of camping and news footage of disasters, consciously depicts itself as a mountain, in this instance compete with the chirping of cicadas. In conflating a human form with a landscape form, the work examines not what an outsider is, but how that label is formulated and promulgated.
Following on from their recent exhibitions of video (FACT, 2007; Northern Art Prize, 2009), Crowe and Rawlinson will premiere a spectacular new work entitled Die Brucke. Filmed at night during the dismantling of a railway bridge in Berlin, the work is a rapidly changing kaleidoscope of welding tools and cascading sparks. The urban texture of Berlin is folded and multiplied to create a hypnotic series of patterns which allude simultaneously to European and Middle Eastern architectural forms. The exhibition can be experienced as a soundscape in which natural rhythms are in counterpoint to hard industrial noise. The sounds are taken to be both implicit in the fan of sparklers arranged on a drum skin awaiting ignition in Sparkle Snare, and viscerally present in the lull of insects emanating from Citizenship. Die Brucke's percussive pulse is located in the live noise of its street location and underscores a motive force that finds its mute echo in the form of a ceramic anvil.
No Sign of Helicopters sets up a series of poetic resonances between place and person and the activities that preoccupy them. Whilst some works allude to spectacle and escape, there is an ever present concern with the individual constrained and positioned by social forces. This is a world explored in partial glimpses. Vignettes of anxiety and release evoking images of labour, energy and heat are as much symptoms of the retreat into nostalgia as they are of what might once have been called purposeful industriousness.