Utilising the Digital Sphere

Performer/Audience/Mirror, Lisson Gallery’s exhibition highlights the dynamic medium of film. A continuous showreel of films, the work on view spans hours accommodating the work of 18 conceptual artists, and it even extends behind the gallery space. Utilising the digital sphere, Lisson offers a two-part series of screenings online which streams featured artists’ films over the course of a few days at a time – it’s an additional chance to experience the work from home or on the tube. The exhibition conveys film as a mirror to our lives and on a greater scope, it also allows the opportunity for heightened engagement anytime and anywhere, which couldn’t be more timely to contemporary life today.

Set into the three parts of performer, audience, and mirror based on Graham’s performance, the exhibition disrupts the more conventional notions of watching film by shifting the perspectives. The performer side contains the works of artists Marina Abramović, Gerard Byrne, Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg, Ryan Gander, Christian Jankowski and Rodney Graham that examine the meanings of performance from the context of the art gallery and further into comedy and theatre. As part of this “Performer” section, there’s an opportunity for wanderlusting when watching Rodney Graham’s Robinson Crusoe-inspired Vexation Island where a beached pirate is on a idyllic tropical island, with his barrel of rum and parrot in tow. From funny to feminism, Marina Abramovic’s video self-portrait on view in this section features the artist repeating “art must be beautiful, artists must be beautiful” as she furiously brushes her hair.

The performer needs their audience, and the audience section is at the core of the exhibition which takes place within Dan Graham’s pavilion, Greek Meander Pavilion, Open Shoji Screen Version (2001). The pavilion is a beautiful sculpture, made up of two-way mirrors and shōji panels like those of Japan. As such, it’s not only the performer on film being watched, but also the audience in an attempt that begins to blur previously existing boundaries between the two. There’s the ability to watch and be watched, and watch the films and audience members from the outside-in. The installation is as intriguing as it is engaging. The pavilion houses TV screens showing various films, including Graham’s Performer/Audience/Mirror (1977) and John Latham’s psychedelic Speak (1962), a submersion into the colour splashes that were initially played at a Pink Floyd concert.

Upstairs in the third gallery space, the ‘Mirror’ programme is screened. This section is expectedly reflective, with films demonstrating how the medium can have a social, political, and historical impact and also emphasise the extent of its reflection of society. Cory Arcangel’s piece in particular is not far detached from our internet-obsessed-and-consumed lifestyles.

Without being able to select which film you’ll watch on your visit or dictate the way you as the audience are being perceived, Lisson’s option of watching the live films online is a viable one. Included in the online film series is Downpour (Torstrasse) (2004) by Ceal Floyer, portraying windy storms in various locations with the rain blowing in diagonal directions captured by a tilted camera. In contrast to Floyer’s skewed version of a common occurrence, Wael Shawky’s Telematch Shelter (2008) is about mobilization and aspirations of prosperous community. Both films are almost meditative through their use of repetition, however the series online is intended to evoke a global discussion surrounding this democratic medium and it’s, at times, controversial content.

There are also supplementary materials as part of the exhibition, pulled from the gallery’s almost 50 year history and extensive archive, set on shelves and in a vitrine in a separate gallery space, taking the exhibition offscreen to the physical page. However it is presented, performance art and film leaves more to be revealed. Performance art is perhaps a form of the modern day selfie, even factoring in explorations of identity. In itself it questions what is art, and it takes further depth examining issues of surveillance and propaganda. Lisson has provided a new way of showing a typically straightforward medium by embracing both technology and traditional formats.

Ashton Chandler Guyatt

For more information: http://www.lissongallery.com Until 3 September.

1. The Silence, (2014). Single channel HD colour video, 5.1 sound16 minutes 4 seconds© Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Lisson Gallery.