Review of Laura Buckley: The Magic Know-How, Sheffield

Laura Buckley’s sensory installation at Site Gallery, Sheffield, is separated from the outside world by a thick black curtain, which marks the entrance of the gallery and the end of the bookshop. As an artist who reconfigures the everyday, it is appropriate that audiences have to literally pass through a curtain to reach Buckley’s alternative perspective. And once inside the gallery, the colours, sounds and sights are ones quite contrary to the appearance of outside reality.

An immersive exhibition entitled The Magic Know-How, the works cross the boundaries of sculpture, video and sound art. Effortlessly blending all three, the artist is able to construct a space where the familiar is viewed in a new light. Video art is projected through prism-shaped semi-transparent sculptures and sound is given new expression in the sonic landscape produced in collaboration with musician Andy Spence.

Once inside Gallery One, the various pieces demonstrate the breadth of video art, exploring both the ordinary and the more abstract. Instantly drawn to Blossom Fizz, the audience is captivated by the familiar shapes of blossom, champagne bubbles and mud. In contrast, Distortion Site is less recognisable, instead the video has been digitally manipulated in such a way it is near impossible to make out the objects. These two pieces work in-sync, with Blossom Fizz introducing the viewer to a basic exploration of the everyday on film and Distortion Site taking this to extremes, stretching the boundaries of perception.

The objects chosen to undergo examination hold no special qualities, aside from the fact they are part of domestic life. Along with her two daughters, Buckley used bespoke methods of digital scanning to produce a collage of their living environment. Filming everything from perfume bottles to food, fabric and paint-brushes, she finds unique observations of the world. The production also disregards the neat cutting patterns of commercials and includes the editing actions and even her reflection in the computer screen at times. Her self-reflexive art details its construction while still dictating an original dialogue around the limits of perception.

Meanwhile, in Gallery Two, the immersive experience of Buckley’s work is fully experienced. Floatation Chamber is seen as one moving image sculpture but is made up of a triptych of vertical projections wrapped around the structure. The construction of the physical form allows audiences to walk into the various films. Focusing on water and light in the content of the videos means that when standing within the work the feeling of being underwater is unavoidable.

Not only testing the boundaries of the audience’s senses, Buckley experiments with the recording and presentation of sensory art. Beginning with sights and sounds familiar to everyone, she goes on to distort and alter in order to examine what we really perceive everyday. Also playing with the projection of light, video and sound into a gallery space, the artist is as conscious about the properties of her sculptures as she is about what is transmitted through the computers. Consequently The Magic Know-How is an exhibition that challenges how the world is perceived through questioning how it is presented in a gallery setting.

Laura Buckley: The Magic Know-How, until 21 September, Site Gallery, 1 Brown Street, Sheffield, S1 2BS

Hannah Clugston

1. Image courtesy of Laura Buckley.