is a common display of islands of meaning in a space, flat images on a shelve or directly on the wall, 3D on a pedestal or trolley. Each is given approaching and leaving viewing space with strong emphasis on the condition of viewing.
Stopping the Spots, 2014 invites to transverse along the horizontal display. The rhythmical gathering of three or two is punctuated by solitary single as if gradating their role in the overall set. It is misleading. Each image holds its own recognisable meaning on its own, ignoring its immediate or distanced neighbours as well as the out of scale white circles.
The random appearance of the white disc works as an alien force field captured by chance. It flirts with our discomfort of not knowing why and what it is – a light? An abstraction of astronomic depth? A set of plastic bubbles interfering between the image and the lens? Your choice.
Each white Spot, however, requires effortlessly and playfully a serious and disturbing meaning: erasing sensuality of and uprooting traditional snapshot from its lived experience, thus creating a context from within.
That context is conceptual art.
Richards has grounded the aesthetics of this display in combinatory flow known from mathematics . Maths has aesthetics of its own. A flow of data makes out aesthetic experience in several exhibits. This aesthetic strategy is favoured by Ryoji Ikeda currently exhibiting at the House of Electronic Arts Basel.
In the middle of Gallery 2 is a projection room with no walls.
Richards counts slowly from 1 -10 – with no apparent link to the projected image.
A result of a 12 minute performance piece that was enacted, recorded and infinitely looped on the evening of the exhibition opening (Gallery handout). The ontological context forges a sharp fall from real to mediated, from live to repeating loop, recurrance of the same. The sensuality of life is squeezed out without any sentiment, more brutally that in the series concerning the Spots. Yet, the level of energy in the projection is higher than in the objects that create it. Gift of light.
In comparison with an exuberant use of hues above, Richards installation echoes ordered classicism..
Not just light, also scale matters to the visual power. On the left in the above installation shot is a huge pedestal with a tiny screen of a large old viewer.
The lens recorded the action, then subsequent stages were superimposed over each other. It is quite difficult to read on a small screen.
Richards seamlessly moves from lens to no lens to performance to conceptual art. Equally seamlessly he lets all being devoured by duration, giving time the prime role. Like onion, each work has layers of meanings in parentheses of questions: how sensibly (or not) comprehend curiosity (or boredom), and chance (or severely curtailed plan)?
There are two exhibits that pretend not to belong. On one wall a series of images of blinds
Paraphrasing Heinrich Heine , blinds as concrete bodies are finite, the light forges an illusion of infinite space behind them.
On the opposite wall is a visualised idea of greatness: a tree.
The language of the title not only insists on creating its own context, it also shifts from one meaning to another. Either it is “significance of vitalism” this time in red hue, implying existence of variations in other colours, or it is just significance of one and only ‘vitalism in red”. It creates indexical situation governed by preference. A question how many versions are possible remains unanswered. (If you remind yourself of Vito Acconci here, it may be a valuable connection).
The Gallery ONE differs.
An airy display charms you by its calm dignity. Having typed the word ‘dignity’ I felt an opposition from several of the exhibits. yet, the overall impression is that.
A sense of going beyond what you can possibly take in instalments led me to see the display, all of it as one work of art. The clinching element was (sadly) verbal:
Printed in red this call was near the door behind which the “vitalism in red” was silently watching.
This one screams three exclamation marks, a sign of a burdensome desire? Or uncertainty?
Richards used a segment of an old family film and let it destroy itself. Note the set up, the bar above is a sign of high professionalism, the loop was not. The projectors belong to history – so does the story on the loop. The cumbersome plinth carries far too many, somewhat obsolete projectors for a briefest of documents. Time appears in three guises: the finite past, the briefest of repeat, and infinite duration surrounding both. This linear time became to fragile and gave in to space and light that projects itself.
Back view of the projectors underscores their being out of time.
Naturally, time sliced into sequences turns into a believable history. Even if fragmentary. Time is viewed as linear, a concept that governs the series of unique prints of on subject – albeit in motion.
Still images fill in 21 Variations in black and white. Each carries a seated person and a handwritten text of their choice. The duration of writing determined duration of the exposure.
Richards asked Kim McAleese to invite selected persons to come to the studio, write any answer to a question why they came. Two have not turned up, Richards included dark images and no text. This is from Tony Hill, Richards’ tutor for MFA degree…
So far – majority of exhibits subscribed to a linear time. However, in all cases, there was a repeat, a loop, some sort of recurrence.
This idea received a powerful, yet discreet, embodiment in ‘A Perimeter…’. reel to reel tape, looped.2014
The three tape recorders are connected with the continuously running tape forging a triangle.
I did not hear the whole quote from Herbert Marcuse essay On Liberation (1969). The very use of language whose sound turns into dust not only pointed to the black and white memory of death
but also to the tools of renewal.
The idea of linear time gave way to a cyclic time in full. The triangle of the sound tape is a visible, visualised Ouroborous (dragon devouring its tale) – eternal recurrance.
Artists at times are like philosophers. They see beauty in what is necessary and in uncompronising acceptance of what happens ( ashes of beloved cat). Perhaps, I am not wrong in seeing this exhibition as a portrait of Richards’ contemplative attitude to time. Amor Fati as Peter Richards perceives it.
There is an undertone: deliberate and fond use of neglected equipment – another cycle – signals respect for the old, be it a recorder, viewer or pinhole camera.
It is another link to the ancient idea of eternal return – often connected to Nietzsche’s writing.
Images from the exhibition courtesy Peter Richards