Category Archives: installation art

Giuseppe Stampone, Play (2010)

It costs 10p to play. When you plug your money in the coinslot, five speakers strike up an orchestral version of The Star Spangled Banner. The speakers are black and shaped like coffins.

This seems like an attack on video game culture. For some £30-40 you can buy highly realistic battle simulators such as Call of Duty or Medal of Honour. Play all you like.

Chances are you will be fighting on the side of the Americans, but are we all not doing likewise every time we participate in the free market economy. It is not too much of a jump from spending pounds and pence on light entertainment to also propping up the military-industrial complex.

We do not, of course, have a choice. Hence perhaps the cynicism of Giuseppe Stampone‘s work. It is completely unadorned, functional in an ugly way. It knows you will not be able to resist.

We could try and walk away, check out some of the other great work at Phase 5, but all the rest also has its place in the market. They are all to some extent sideshows. Perhaps the very wars referenced here are themselves a sideshow, a distraction from the play of high finance.

Play can be seen until Novermber 27 at Phase 5, a No Longer Empty exhibition, which forms part of the Liverpool Biennial. See Biennial website for further details.

Ray Lee, Murmur (2010)

First please allow this bold claim. The appeal of a model train set lies not in the sexual inadequacies of a certain type of man, but in the chance to see a world made of cycles.

Watching Murmur by Ray Lee puts one in mind of these maligned toys. It has been installed in a basement filled with a mechanical whirr. LEDs travel around on wide aerial circuits.

There are no trains but, when the main lights go down, it is not hard to imagine planes. With eight or nine sets of spinning arms on metal tripods, it suggests the air traffic of an entire hemisphere.

But planes and trains are not the only things to circle our planet. Artist Ray Lee is more interested in electromagnetism and other invisible fields. The whirring tripods play music. It is celestial.

In full flow, murmur is breathtaking. It is a landscape with a pulse. These points of light cannot be stopped and you worry there may be just too much activity. But nothing goes wrong.

Which brings us back to train sets. These, likewise, never crash. It could be they too are following invisible fields of energy, or possibly that is just what they reveal. No wonder they divide people.

Murmur can be seen in the show Phase 5 until 27 November as part of the Liverpool Biennial 2010. For more details see the Biennial website.

Antti Laitinen, The Bark (2010)

Around the last corner of his show at A Foundation, you stumble upon this workshop of nature-loving Antti Laitinen. The scene is not filled with charm or wonder, but rather shock and horror.

Something unexpected and industrial is going on. There are gas cylinders and what look to be tar bricks. Work has suddenly stopped, hence the volume of wood shavings on the floor.

The boat looks crude. It would do. Its main constituent is bark from the floor of the forest in Finland where Laitinen lives. To make this vessel seaworthy is requiring some violence.

A week after the show opened, the artist rowed this very boat up the River Mersey for three and a half hours. His trip combines elements of the magical and the manic.

Perhaps all ecological statements need a little of either. Fairy-like, the trees shed their bark for our use. Termite-like, humans will work with whatever they can get.

Other works in the show feature the artist digging a burrow into the soil and, apparently, eating ants off the end of a stick. More horror results, but you would have to call Laitinen a survivor.

The Bark is a new commission by A Foundation and the Liverpool Biennial 2010 and can be seen in Laitinen’s show at the former until November 28 2010.

You can read more about the artist on the blog Big Fat Failure or the artist’s own website. Here is also a film on YouTube about a previous 19-hour voyage he made in a bark boat.

Will Kwan, Flame Test (2010)

Putting out the flags has become the most recognised gesture of welcome in every part of the world. Here we all are, they say, together in our differing categories.

Seen all at once, they inspire optimism. All these national emblems will fit on the end of a flagpole or a world cup wallchart, so it stands to reason the countries themselves may co-exist.

Indeed the 36 raised pennants on the outside of the Scandinavian Hotel flutter in the same breeze. On a sunny day, they look more or less the same.

But the cosmopolitan mood soon darkens. The flags in Flame Test appear to be burning. On closer inspection you realise that each of these nations is guilty, and their guilt makes them distinct.

Having been printed up from actual press agency photos, the installation brings home how much each of these countries is somewhere hated. It is hard to continue subscribing to the innocence of flags.

Perhaps we would be better off without our categories, certainly we would be less likely to go to war. Burning one flag is an act of hate. Burning them all is surely an act of love.

Flame Test can be seen at the former Scandinavian Hotel, Liverpool, until November 28 2010, as part of the Liverpool Biennial. For more details visit

Victoria Karlsson – Scores for Silence, a&e gallery

Art has always had a close relationship with the frame around the work or the plinth on which it sits. At least one entire book has been written about this frequently overlooked object.

In either case, the presentation brings something to the art. It adds value. No consideration of a painting is possible without some influence from its frame, or the fact it does not have one.

The plastic vials in Victoria Karlsson’s show are vital to the meaning of her tiny exhibits. Each one draws attention to the curiosity within and puts clinical distance between viewer and contents.

The artist has assembled a number of small objects which might provoke a thought, memory or an emotion. The containers stop them blurring into one another and keep the genies in the bottles.

As the name of the show suggests, Karlsson has arranged her show to resemble a musical score. In this case the scraps of gauze and chips of wood are individual notes, while the vials act as a stave.

This framework makes it easier to read the show. Perhaps all gallery plans and hanging conventions could be described as Scores for Silence.

Scores for Silence is at a&e gallery, Brighton, until August 29. See gallery website for opening times.