conceptual, contemporary, music, video

Review: Richard Grayson at De La Warr Pavilion

February 22, 2010

The end of the world is nigh in the art of Richard Grayson. But we might just be saved by work like this. It has a light touch, which never gives way to despair.

There is irony even in the title of Ways The World Ends. Competing prophecies are ranged against one another in acid-coloured prints which spiral their way in and out of comprehension. Bright and trippy, these texts from the outer reaches of the internet are rendered harmless, yet dizzying.

Close by are more angst filled texts in a piece called Hadron Collider. These come from the blogs of individuals working on the science of the Big Bang theory. These are black and white, accompanied by dull photographs, quite boring. Yet they warn scientists could create a black hole here on earth.

Cosmic forces are also evoked by another text-based work called Intelligence. This compares the star charts of six protagonists in the recent politics of the middle east. It offers a fatalistic twist on all the rhetoric of spreading democracy or resisting imperialism.

The backdrop to all this work is the twang of Country and Western music, which echoes out from a gallery filled with bales of hay. You can make yourself at home on one of these barnyard seats and get down to the folksiness of the band on one of the giant projections. Another screen reveals their lyrics to come straight from Handel’s Messiah. The choral work now seems like enjoyable hokum.

In another video piece a choir take their places to sing an alternative to Handel’s choral work. This time the libretto comes from, again, the internet, namely the site of a US cult whose vision is part book of revelations, part pure sci-fi. From the look on their faces, it is just another piece of music. The high seriousness of the genre now appears empty and foolish.

Music figures indirectly in a third video piece, The Magpie Index. This 80 minute film features a monologue by singer-songwriter Roy Harper. Whether talking about New Labour or intergalactic space travel, the result is compelling. Like many voices in this show, his comes from outside the mainstream. Harper keeps a sense of humour. But if the truth is out there, we are in trouble.

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