Monday, 28 December 2015

SAFE - exhibition at HOME, Manchester

“Are you allergic to the 21st century?” 

'Imagine becoming allergic to everything you enjoy...

This group exhibition takes Todd Haynes’ film, Safe (1995), as a starting point for a series of new commissions in moving image, sculpture, print, writing and performance from artists Claire Makhlouf Carter, Chris Paul Daniels, Camilla Wills, Yoshua Okon and 2014 Turner Prize nominee James Richards alongside existing work by Michael Dean, Sunil Gupta, Laura Morrison and Jala Wahid.

Haynes’ film stars Julianne Moore as Carol White, a 1980s Californian housewife who becomes increasingly allergic to everyday domestic products and routine activities, eventually moving to an enclosed community in New Mexico. It can be read as a reflection on environmental issues, sexual politics, the AIDS epidemic and suburban disillusionment. At first her illness appears to empower her - to offer an escape from her stifling life. But eventually White is left frail and alone in a porcelain cabin in the desert, with the dubious promise of self-love to console her. White appears trapped, either incapable or unwilling to reconcile the psychological and the physical.'

Initially I found Jala Wahid's photographic images of bodily materials such as food and cosmetics to be seductive, but they also verge on the unpleasant as the materials begin to deteriorate from their original form, to curdle, crack or separate.

My highlight of the exhibition was the new commission, Fridge-Freezer (2015) by Yoshua Okon. Separated from the other exhibits by a curtain, one enters a comfortable home- cinema type setup, with luxurious carpeted flooring and a sofa in order to view the 2 channeled video installation by Yoshua Okon. Fridge-Freezer was filmed at show homes in the suburbs of Manchester and features well-groomed female estate agents selling the supposedly stylish properties, focusing on the safety features such as high windows to prevent children from tampering, and a front door with a security viewing device (peephole). My gut reaction was to laugh; the artificiality and sterile nature of the properties and the overly enthusiastic estate agents emphasise the ridiculousness that is how we believe that this is the kind of environment that we should aspire to live in, and the isolated lifestyles that we should lead.

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