I’ve always thought that restraints were an admirable aide to creativity. This view was reinforced by Antennae at Lubomirov Angus Hughes.The gallery held an open call for works which responded to the current climate of increasing instability and uncertainty. There was the promise that virtually everything submitted would be exhibited in London and from that exhibition, the curators would select works which they believed contextualised the mood of the time. Selected works would then be exhibited at Platform Projects in Athens. There was one big catch – works had to be delivered through their letter box – a mere 24.5 cm x 6 cm.
The challenge oddly appealed to me: I have become interested in soft sculptures and I wondered whether it might be possible to post a person through the letter box. The idea was to create a kind of self portrait reflecting how I felt first thing in the morning thinking about the folly of Brexit and the horror of Trump. I even acted it out, lying on the floor but the sculpture had its own ideas and the first head shape I made reminded me of Munch’s scream. I finally decided to go with it and make a female scream. Here she is. Brexit! Trump! Aaagh! or B!T!A! for short. She is nearly 5ft tall, and is actually quite a bit more than 24.5cm wide. However, with her elbows compressed into her chest and wrapped tightly in clingfilm she just squeezed in.
Before I arrived in Hackney, I had been pretty certain she would was slender enough. I had rigged up a model letter box out of polystyrene sheeting and had made sure she would go through. When I saw the real thing on the day of the deadline, when it was too late to change anything, I wasn’t at all sure she would make it.
Helpfully, she breathed in, no doubt screaming a little more because it must have been uncomfortable. Once she was gone I worried how she would decompress and whether the good people at Lubomirov Angus Hughes would plump her up. I also wondered who else would respond to the challenge and what the standard would be like.
At the Private View on Friday, I was relieved to see that B!T!A! had been unscathed by her journey and the general standard of the works was remarkably high.
With over 100 works on show there was some incredibly imaginative entries, far too many to show. I particularly liked the clever machine-sewn drawings by Matt Siwerski.
I have always felt that the art world tended to neglect the sense of smell, but olfactory artist Lady Michaelle St Vincent had produced the Smell of Brexit – four little boxes representing the stages of grief each containing a different scent. I reflected I hadn’t got to ‘acceptance’ yet.
The Map of Nowhere seemed to sum things up pretty well.
Poppy Whatmore was even more direct. You Made a Mess of Things, We Made a Mess of Things; They Made a Mess of Things.
I also liked Maria Kaleta’s Underworld Faces.
The curators will make their choice this week on the works that will go to Athens. I hope T!B!A! makes it. She would like the trip. I hope the works I have shown here make it too. But whatever the outcome, it was tremendous fun taking part.
Antennae is open in London at 26 Clapton Road E50PD on Sunday 14 May and moves to Athens at the Platform Project 20-25 May