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Corinna Spencer

Subversive Spaces at Compton Verney

13 June – 6 September

I made it to Compton Verney.

    Beneath the surface of the family home and the bustling streets of the city lie repressed the histories, unspoken secrets and half- remembered dreams. The Surrealists sought to unearth these hidden narratives that reside in our everyday spaces and express them in art and literature.

    Unpicking some of the connections between Surrealist ideas of the past and the way in which they are made use of more recently, SUBVERSIVE SPACES focuses on the contemporary artists who show how the forces of the psyche are played out in the changing spaces we live in.

    Subversive Spaces is split into two distinct spaces PSYCHIC INTERIORS using the themes of psychic disturbance, anxiety and hysteria-to explore the spaces of the home and WANDERING THE CITY follows the the surrealists preoccupation with walking around the streets as a means to discover hidden social spaces as well as unconscious fears and desires. (Compton Verney)

I have posted the pieces that cried out to me. All but one of them came from the Psychic Interiors section (not much of a surprise there really). Schinwald (a Viennese Artist) says of his film piece bellow:

    ‘A film about the translation of a psychological contortion into a physical convulsion’.

For me, the other disturbing aspect was of being watched, whether the Bearded Gentleman is interpreted as being Freud or not, his presence here is chilling. Towards the end of the film this character’s demeanor seemed to be one of excitement. This created a hellish environment for the female character to experience her (possible) hysteria, there appeared to be no help available as she continues to convulse closer to her own destruction within this domestic scene.

Markus Schinwald-1st part Conditional, 2004

        Markus Schinwald- Contortionists (Rachel), 2003
        Mona Hatoum-Incommunicado 1993

*shit! where do you put the baby?*…..this was the thought that went through my mind and it wasnt a humorous one, it was a serious thought that was some what unsettling and gruesome -truth be told- only harm could come to the small person being placed in this cot, what an awful start to have. (Domestic objects taking on the possibilities if violence, pain and even torture)


      Lucy Gunning-Climbing around my room, 1993

This performance was fascinating on so many levels, from the route the dancer took around the room to the bruises and marks that adorned the parts of her body made visible to the audience (arms, legs, feet, face and hands-battle scars from taking on this room) this was almost endurance. Exploring a room, sure, but ultimately trapped inside it? and perhaps herself.
Sample City preview cut01

Calin Dan-Sample City, 2003 (original is 11 mins running time)

    Calin Dan’s protagonist, wandering in and out of Bucharest with a door on his back….re framing the ordinary act of walking as a performance on order to dispute the fabric of everyday life.(Compton Verney)

BUT, theres much more going on in this film than the simple wanderings of a man and his door. The artist shows us aspects of a city-ravaged by poverty and a cruel history of dictatorship-that we wouldnt usually see, or perhaps we just dont see anymore. Dan moves through the extremes of the city. Through him we see the sad and the hopeful.

        Snapshot 2009-08-30 16-19-01

Tony Oursler-The Most Beautiful Thing I’ve Never Seen, 1995
I have saved the best ’till last!! What to say about Oursler? His installations are
playful yet dark. ‘Unheimliche’? absolutely. However these projected faces become my friends. I cant help it.
The woman under the sofa, with her face squashed into the floor, tells us what a wonderful *thing* she is seeing…constantly telling the viewer that he/she needs to see it, this wonderous…??????

Over all I enjoyed the exhibit. I was relieved to find the more contemporary along side the more recognizable-some how re- contextualizing all of the work. What I found difficult was a practical concern, that of noise pollution. Its understandable, the space was undersized given the number of artists on exhibit here, but sound bleeding from one work into quite areas was a sad side effect. It reminded me of the importance of the space around a piece of work that often only requires air.