Published on Culture24
David Blandy – Fortress of Solitude, 176 / Zabludowicz Collection, London, until Summer 2010
Strap on the artificial guitar and fire up the games console and you are ready to enter David Blandy’s world. It is indeed, as he demonstrates, a stage. We find our truth in the roles we play.
Guitar Hero is just part of it. Fortress of Solitude includes a library of games, books, comics, films and records which invite the viewer to load up, read, or put on different mass culture artefacts. Each carries a Soul Archive label as if a piece of Blandy’s very essence.
His influences, and the show is about nothing else, are eclectic. They include Kafka and Joyce, but also Marvin Gaye and EPMD. Martial Arts seem to tie the whole lot together as the sphere where hip hop, video games and of course film collide. Way of the Samurai is the subtitle of both a book (Mishima) and a movie (Jim Jarmusch).
It could also reference Blandy’s longest running video pieces. Soul of London, Soul of the Lakes and The Five Boroughs of the Soul all star the artist in an orange kung fu suit, with staff and portable record player. Each one documents a quest or in search of truth or the meaning of soul. On the subway in New York, a barefoot Blandy explains to a bemused local that he is doing a penance.
In the Bronx, he risks getting shot. In London, he risks mockery. In Cumbria, he risks cut and bruised feet. But each film is cut and spliced with clips from the music and the movies the film-maker loves. So they combine postmodern hyperreality with real endurance, an intriguing mix.
The artist also puts himself on the line with emotive lip-synced performances of hip-hop, reggae, funk and soul classics. In Hollow Bones he even mimes along to a Syl Johnson track called Is It Because I’m Black? Blandy by the way is, apparently, not.
That could mean his performances are as hollow as the bones in the film’s title. Or it could mean that they are still bones, still the structure of his existence.