It’s strange reviewing shows featuring a large quantity of contributors at the best of times, with issues of timing and page-space enforcing a schizophrenic approach. It’s difficult to know how to give and sustain an analysis, with the easiest option being to just admit defeat and focus on your favourite. To complicate things slightly further, Exta>, shown at Res., (featuring work by Dark Creatures, Michelle Hannah, Lewis den Hertog, Emilia Kurylowicz, Stuart Middleton, Eva Papamargariti, Tai Shani, Gary J Shipley, and Craig ‘VI’ Slee, and shown as part of both the Art Licks Weekend and Deptford X) is the first iteration of a research project, thus forming the sketch or trial-run of a proposition. This immediately raises the question of how to approach a preliminary suggestion, this stop-gap within ‘an ongoing research project by Lucy A. Sames and Dane Sutherland’, i.e. should we afford the work leniency in its definition as research in distinction from exhibition?
From the press release: “[Exta] presents the untimely vision of a dank sludgescape populace that is disoriented, corrupted and feverishly fucked; new flesh, new territories, and new headaches…” Reading, deliriously, more like an esoteric doom-core record label’s press-release than the promo for a contemporary art show, in some ways this music reference feels apt. At its best, Exta comes across as a cultural cross-section of time, our time, now. A lot of what’s on show here is, put bluntly, totally ‘on trend’, or as Steven Shaviro claims of the inherent expressive ‘…ways that they (recent film and video works, and in particular cinema and music videos) give voice (or better, give sounds and images) to a kind of ambient, free-floating sensibility that permeates our society today, although it cannot be attributed to any subject in particular.’
Exta is essentially a video programme, comprising a large single-screen medley of moving-image material made up of music videos, film clips, and moving image work. Other than an unfurling sculpture by Tai Shani, the gallery is sparse, dark, and primarily concerned with the procedure of the films, not the accommodation of audiences (there’s no seating). That said, the running time of over an hour is pacey, and equally humorous and disturbing enough to find difficulty in pulling away from the ‘…anabolic fibroproliferative mess.’
In Emilia Kurylowicz’s piece, Robot Mouth (2014), computer-tech prosthetics and the artist sing a disconcerting duet. The strange fleshlight/worm-mouth-form of the voice synthesis is attempting to phonically reproduce the artists reading of ‘Ave Maria’: “Blessed is the fruit of thy womb…” as a technological-becoming replacing the Christ-child. Tenderly spoken over a soft melody, the work has a lullaby quality, with the artist bestowing maternal care on this technology - encouraging and coaxing it - as if it an infant in the throes of replicating speech to learn our language. Frankenstein themes abound and appear starkly prescient, standing as we are on the precipice of AI’s genuine formation.