The drug addict and the contemporary artist share a certain flair for rebellion. And so the sight of a high tensile steel cable threaded with roaches from spliffs makes perfect sense here.
We are told that Leirner is/was an addict and that the work here in her blue-chip show at White Cube was originally put together in a three-day cocaine binge in 2010.
More paraphernalia is threaded onto further cables which cut across the upper ground floor space like an infra red beam alarm system. Like an addict we must transgress with care.
Suspended in line with the drug taking gear are pocket spirit levels, which no gallery technician can ever be without. Just as Lerner must depend on a certain equilibrium to remain an ‘artist’.
But it has been said: “Those who have taken a powder with quasi-magical effects and consider themselves quite unfettered, entirely liberated, out of this world perhaps, are still running on tracks.”*
So although this installation benefits from some of the outsiderish drama, the evidence here of years of drug use have thrown up very little new or imaginative. There is no Kubla Khan.
Instead the topic here is a gruelling relationship with repetition as months and years pass in which the artist skins up, chops out and perhaps shoots up to very little transcendental benefit.
Instead Leirner is marking time and perhaps archiving an impoverished personal history. So her resinated rolling papers could become like Plato’s pharmakon: a tool for remembering.
Of course, the pharmakon is a drug of two halves. As a repository for our past, it frees us to stop carrying around the baggage of memory, perhaps also here the baggage of sober reason.
The roaches also criss cross the room like lines of text to become a written diary. And, thanks in part to Derrida**, we know that in the opinion of Plato the written word was also a pharmakon.
Whether remedy or poison, this show called Junkie offers a meditation on the monotonous reality of drug addiction. That drug addiction possesses a ‘reality’ of its own should not surprise us.
Jac Leirner: Junkie can be seen at White Cube Mason’s Yard, London, until May 14 2016.
*Henri Michaud, quoted by David Boothroyd (Deconstructions, A User’s Guide; edited by Nicholas Royle, Palsgrave 2000).
** Jacques Derrida, The Rhetoric of Drugs (Points, Interviews 1974-1994) Stanford University Press 1995
Long after his death, forensic photographer Luigi Tomellini has become an ‘artist’. Producer Stefano Amoretti and photographer Mino Tristovskij have put him in a book and a show.
This could not have happened had not his analogue photography lost its value as evidence gathering. The very obsolescence of the medium gives these documents a certain poetry.
No one could question the purpose of his vision, of the vision of a hardworking forensic snapper. Tomellini’s work has put criminals behind bars and served justice to the victims of crime. One hopes.
If poets are still the unacknowledged legislators of the world (unlikely), police photographers, CCTV directors and (at times) courtroom artists are the acknowledged prosecution.
But none of the prints in the show will make it to the situation room or the courthouse. It is Amoretti and Tristovskij who have latterly developed his vast collection of negatives.
Nearly 30 years ago, these negs were found in a rubbish bin in Genoa. But one man’s trash is often another man’s meat (especially if the other party in question are artistically inclined).
The duo behind Clue: Cold developed Tomellini’s output using a traditional emulsion technique, implicating themselves in the investigation of early 20th century crimes.
By way of an important footnote, the forces or law and order were using photography only a few years after the technique was invented. This began as far back as the 1840s.
One remembers that photography perhaps only has a minor history as an artform. Aesthetics comes in second to pragmatics. But this show turns that worldly fact of life on its head.
Clue: Cold can be seen at Gallery 71a, London, on 24 March 2016, before travelling to Treviso and Genoa in Italy.
How can one comment on a work of art based on an experience of no more than 10 minutes with it, when the entirety lasts an entire day? Well, the elevator pitch for Gordon’s film tells you enough.
This is the Alfred Hitchcock thriller Psycho (1960) slowed down from 24 frames a second to just two. It runs in slow mo, in silence, in glacial indifference to the fate of Marion Crane or Janet Leigh.
So Gordon’s film is somewhat more sadistic than the original. I caught up with it as Crane drives along Highway 99, nervously looking ahead, nervously checking the rear view, in a seeming loop.
We know she is speeding to her death, but she does so with minimal, staccato movements that let us study the appearance and behaviour of an archetype: the victim marked out by fate for a grisly end.
But she is herself a criminal, and so perhaps the film also does her a service, stretching the period of time between her theft of a client’s money and her demise at the hand of Norman Bates.
24 Hour Psycho is both generous and cruel. It torments the viewer with its impossible duration and at the same time promises us saturation with one of the most analysed movies of all time.
“It takes work, pious effort, to see what you are looking at,” so writes Don Delillo, whose 2010 novel Point Omega opens with a character who visits and revisits this piece, when it is at MoMA.
If encountered in the cinema, movies take very little pious effort. But Hitchcock manipulates his own creation to an even greater extent than this black and white monolith of video art.
IMDb is a goldmine where Psycho is concerned and we learn that the director used a 50mm lens to give his footage a voyeuristic immediacy. The 45 second shower scene uses 78 pieces of film.
So much has been written about Psycho and so much has been written about 24 Hour Psycho. But perhaps that is the ultimate comment from this slow procession of scenes. It is a kind of autopsy.
24 Hour Psycho can be seen in The Indivisible Present at Modern Art Oxford until at least March 22 and perhaps beyond, depending on how the year-long Kaleidoscope programme pans out.
The Instruction Manual by John Ashbery is a poem of some 74 lines, which mentions more than 30 colours. And these colours evoke Guadalajara, Mexico, a place the speaker hasn’t even seen.
But having said that, he pictures it well. His senses appear to have been sharpened by the deadline for a technical writing gig, and they soon take flight through an imaginary window.
Michael Craig-Martin is, in his turn, something of a technical illustrator who makes a lively escape into colour. Here you see a sherwood green adaptor with sunny yellow tines and a blood-red interior.
There is nothing naturalistic about this; it is as oneiric as the journey to Mexico in the poem we’ve already seen. But the pleasure is anchored in the familiar form of a travel appliance.
What is it about precision, in writing or draftsmanship, that sets off the imagination? Is it the fact that in both these disciplines, colour is proscribed, a banned and hallucinatory substance.
What with the smoke alarm. the memory stick and the hotel door handle (all of which feature alongside this adaptor), Craig-Martin never makes it out of his room. No en plein air for him.
And so, much of the show suggests the paraphernalia of travel, and this survey reads a little like the difficult third album of a rock band who only write about life on the road. I jest.
There is a case to call this pop art. And I think a more difficult case to compare it with photorealism. Certainly it shares some of the powers of observation, some of the decision making.
Craig-Martin talks about this with artist Liam Gillick. He plays down the role of invention in art, in favour of observation. Gillick meanwhile downgrades inspiration in favour of visual choices.
It is a fascinating discussion and well worth a look if you pick up the catalogue. If nothing else the beautiful 120 page book will give you something to cling to. Like a plug socket in Guadalajara.
Michael Craig-Martin: Transience can be seen at Serpentine Gallery, London, until February 14 2016.
As you may be aware, cinema therapy is a thing. For those with mental health problems such as depression or anxiety, a well-chosen movie is, some will argue, the perfect prescription.
But if you suffer from epilepsy, watching Ictus could be the worst ten minutes you ever spend. No spoilers here, but it’s clear from the get go that Doctor Khan has forgotten his Hippocratic oath.
Worse still, we are all cast as patient to this renegade, whose consulting room is lit by spooky candle, papered with vintage text books on the brain, and emblazoned with the flag of a rogue (?) nation.
The gist of it is this: we have come round from a seizure to find ourselves in the unlucky presence of a man whose sinister mask is enough to foreshadow the eventual end of our treatment.
Director Asheq Akhtar has pulled off two technical feats to bring us Dr Khan’s verbose diagnosis: candles provide the only lighting and it is filmed in just one take. Akhtar also plays the doctor.
Unwillingly, we play the patient. But do patients ever have a choice? And in allegorical terms, did the genocide victims in the 1971 Bangladesh War of Independence volunteer for their fates? No.
Khan’s namesake is Lieutenant-General Tikka Khan, also known as the Butcher of Bengal. So the script, which aligns this historic figure with the doctor from hell, is a further achievement.
The partition of India and Pakistan and subsequent division of Pakistan represent a too complicated narrative. But the mystical doctor in this piece demonstrates that simplicity can be brutal.
There is much in this complex film which eludes me: much conflict, much politics and many hatreds. But the flickering obscurity of this evil interlude is surely a theme unto itself.
In a coda, we view a massacre at Dhaka Uni through the grainy footage of a Western news outlet. the tiny figures a stark contrast to the larger than life Khan. He is closer to home, wherever that is for you.