Thursday, July 12, 2007


Curated by Rémi Faucheux
Open Eye, Wood Street (15th June - 1st August 2007, Tue-Sat 10.30am-5.30pm)

Going to a clinic isn't creepy. It may be a lot of other things - worrying, troubling, nerve-wracking - but it isn't sinister in any way. Patients aren't concerned about anything other than their particular medical condition. So why would anyone pretend any different? Ask the dark ambient soundtrack.

Open Eye's latest pompous and po-faced offering is two rooms of slideshows, each showing pictures related to the 'medical universe'.

In room one, twelve projects by different artists are looped. Almost all of these are totally banal shots, which deserve no further comment. Two photographers rose above the ordinary, however. Olivier Amsella's work shows explicit images from operations, with bits of bodies seeming like extensions of huge, imposing machines. Of course, there's nothing creepy about them, they are being used to make the person healthy, but it did remind me of Richard Dawkins' observation that our bodies are nothing more than 'survival machines' for our genes. Which is a bit unsettling, actually.

Ville Lenkkeri's work is also slightly jarring, with it's disembodied depictions of bits and pieces, models of foetuses, empty containers. Here the weirdness is caused by a lack of context. It's a simple trick but quite a successful one.

The second room is devoted to photos discovered in medical journals, manuals and the like. I have literally never been less excited in my life, and it was as if the selection panel had scoured the blandest places for the the least remarkable images imaginable. And yet that dark ambient soundtrack insisted I should be somehow fearful.

Whenever I go to the Open Eye, it is empty. There is quite an obvious reason for this, almost all their exhibitions show photos of things which people would be bored by if they saw them in their normal environment. Yet they keep getting funding from the arts establishment. It's as if those who hold the purse strings want to keep most people feeling detached and excluded.

Now that really would be sinister.
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