Necrospective is a small exhibition of five thought-provoking installations in a private gallery just off Kennington Road. The gallery’s idea for this exhibition was challenging: starting from a philosophical viewpoint of the death drive, it suggested that the exhibition would consider these issues within the role of technology.  I was intrigued, and went to the show wondering what kind of experience I would encounter.
The exhibition starts with Motohiko Odani’s video Rompers (2003). The installation was run on fourteen TV sets assembled into a wall of screens.  I liked this piece; it shows a mutated yet somehow perfect and innocent world that sets up the curator’s notion of our desire to stay within a safe, fabricated environment.  The video plays on children’s TV programmes: this is apparent from its exaggerated hyperreality which Odani subtly mutates with notions of the adulthood we seek to deny.  It opens with a shot of a reddened knot on the underside of a log, oozing sticky fluid. A young carefree girl is then shown sitting on the log, swinging her legs and singing.  The artist plays with our desire for this safe haven as he literally positions her on the cusp of womanhood and its attendant sexual complexities.  Odani weaves a fantasy containing croaking frogs, suggestive of a courtship dance, and a final playful insert as the girl cheekily uses her tongue to zap a passing insect without a flicker.

The next piece is the curator’s own. Mana (2012) is a sound installation embedded into a fridge.  Deep uncanny sounds come from the fridge; Johnson explained that he had created the sounds himself and that they represented a fridge breaking down.  For him, the underlying theme is about the way technology is overlooked - we only see its functionality, but not its processes.  The sounds from the fridge can be seen to represent a life cycle that screams with life but eventually, inevitably ebbs away.
In the same room, Takeshi Murata’s Monster Movie (2005) has an intensely aesthetic feel as the artist uses computer animation techniques to create dynamic painterly effects.  Once again, the notion of safety in the face of the threatening comes to the surface - this time through monster movies.  However, these are no visceral, slasher flicks: initially the viewer sees a focused shot of what is almost a cuddly toy of a monster which melts away into flowing pixelation.  The idea of the death drive, however, was overtaken for me by the aesthetics of the piece, which are accompanied by a soundtrack - I simply engaged with and enjoyed the visual and aural immersion as the monster transmuted into swirling, beautiful, colour-play.

Craig Fisher’s It’s Uncanny (2008) plays with notions of desensitisation to the horror of an encounter with potential death, by creating a car crash scene in fabric and wood.  In opposition to the deafening crash of metal and sound of tinkling glass one immediately imagines when seeing such images, here there is only silence, and a gentle ‘whoomph’, as two cars made of felt meet each other head on.  Aggression is removed, and for Fisher, the piece reflects on the parodic humour of Claes Oldenburg and the notions of car crash fetishism raised by J.G. Ballard’s novel Crash.  Fisher reflects on the death drive, but also questions the engendered narratives embedded in art materials and techniques by handcrafting the cars of fabric and wood.

The final piece, Alexis Milne’s Riot (2008), is a video installation that engages with riot as spectacle. Footage of the G20 riots in the City plays in the background of the video while a ‘riot’ is enacted in front.  Milne seems to be exploring riot as inauthentic: he comments that within the G20 riot, the police were filming protesters who were filming the police, creating an impotent loop.  The enactment of the riot shows men throwing tables and chairs around and running across the screen, which works to point out the flaccidity of the G20 riots to a certain extent.  This is an early piece from Milne, and comes across as exploratory. I found the enacted scene somewhat underdeveloped, but nevertheless it foregrounds Milne’s later, more complex engagements with issues of capitalism.

The curator, Tom Johnson, has been successful in his choices: he has brought together a good mix of viewpoints that address his central theme of the death drive.  There is much to think about and engage with in this small, well-selected exhibition.  

Necrospective, at Danielle Arnaud contemporary artRita Fennell reviews the Necrospective exhibition at Danielle Arnaud Gallery.3