Pick of the week: Glasgow International

20 April 2018

By Ben Eastham

Mark Leckey, Nobodaddyat, 2018. Tramway, Glasgow International 2018. Photo by Keith Hunter.


Mark Leckey's Nobodaddy at Tramway 

The director's programme at Glasgow International is titled Cellular World: Cyborg-Human-Avatar-Horror, calling to mind a YouTube video designed to snare search terms and Polonius's eager-to-please introduction of a theatre troupe to Hamlet as 'the best actors in the world either for tragedy, comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral, tragical-historical [or] tragical-comical-historical-pastoral'. Yet while the broader impression is of a net cast a little too wide in an attempt to catch the artworld's latest preoccupations, Mark Leckey's installation at Tramway condenses the festival's themes into a single, idiosyncratic expression. An oversized sculpture of Job - looking like an ill-starred precursor to Rodin's thinker - broadcasts a monologue through inlaid speakers that burst like boils from his body. Mirrored in a floor-to-ceiling video that recreates the scene in which the sculpture sits, he muses (in a slurring Manchester accent) on his 'fear of eternity' to snatches of rave-era keyboard fills and bursts of light that illuminate the darkened warehouse-space. It's a weirdly affecting reminder that, for all our contemporary anxieties about technology, humans have always struggled with their relationship to the structures that govern our experience, chief among them time.

Corin Sworn's WORK HOUSE at Koppe Astner

Installation of Corin Sworn, <i>WORK HOUSE</i>, Koppe Astner, Glasgow, 2018. Image courtesy of the artist and Koppe Astner, Glasgow. Installation view of Corin Sworn, WORK HOUSE, Koppe Astner, Glasgow, 2018. Courtesy of the artist and Koppe Astner, Glasgow. 

How bodies function within constraints is addressed, on a more local and limited scale, by Corin Sworn's WORK HOUSE at Koppe Astner. The narrow gallery space is divided into three chambers by two temporary walls, through holes in which you are forced to clamber. A video at the entrance to the gallery shows two dancers moving more elegantly through the space, obeying a set of instructions that dictate their interactions with it and with each other. Attached to the wall, hand-sanitiser dispensers of the type you find in hospitals reinforce the impression of arbitrary rules being enforced (speaking on the opening day, Sworn cites Eula Biss's On Immunity (2014), which suggests that these devices serve no purpose beyond reassurance). But the most compelling work is tucked away at the back of the gallery: a sketchbook has been opened to its centre spread, turned through 90 degrees and pinned within a frame. A systems diagram has been overpainted in white, which provides the ground for esoteric drawn symbols including a pair of cupcakes and a dollar sign; from a small neighbouring speaker come squalls of sirens and police radio dialogue. That the work's logic is at once engrossing and impenetrable seems, at least partly, to be the point.

Richard Wentworth and Victoria Miguel's A Roomful of Lovers (Glasgow) at SWG3

The links that connect images, words and things are made manifest in the collaboration between Richard Wentworth and writer Victoria Miguel on A Roomful of Lovers (Glasgow) at SWG3. Through a vast warehouse space that until recently traded as Clydesdale Galvanizers, the pair have spun a vast clanking web of metal chains to which are clipped dangling lists of words collected together in booklets. The installation presents their shared interest in the etymology and associative potential of words and phrases, considering how networks of language shape the ways we think and, by extension, the worlds we inhabit. While you're there, don't miss Dmitri Galitzine's multiscreen video installation At This Stage (2018), a beautifully paced and unexpectedly compelling portrait of the daily happenings at a dance studio in south London.

Katinka Bock's Radio Piombino at The Common Guild 

Installation view of Katinka Bock at the Common Guild, Glasgow, 2018. Floor: Katinka Bock, <i>Kelvin and Clyde</i>, 2018 (detail). Copper plates, bronze. Foreground: Katinka Bock, <i>K-Karpfen II</i>, 2018. Bronze. Installation view of Katinka Bock, Radio Piombino, The Common Guild, Glasgow, 2018. Courtesy of Glasgow International. 

Galvanising - coating iron with zinc to prevent it rusting - takes its name from Luigi Galvini, the discoverer of animal electricity via the twitching leg of a dead frog. This curious etymological conflation of biological life and industrial processes leads us to the patinated bronze sculptures of dead fish that litter Katinka Bock's exhibition at The Common Guild. Conceiving of the elegant nineteenth-century townhouse as a 'poisoned body', Bock has laced it with lead water pipes, petrified cacti and rusted propeller shafts. The combination of forms and materials calls to mind the coal, glass or tarmac sculptures of Jannis Kounellis, Mario Merz or Carl Andre, albeit reimagined for a more fragile era contaminated by the processes that those mid-century sculptors were inclined to celebrate.

Serge Charchoune at 42 Carlton Place

Serge Charchoune, La Petite Liseuse, 1933. Oil on canvas, 24 x 33.5 cm. Private collection. Image courtesy of 42 Carlton Place, Glasgow. Serge Charchoune, La Petite Liseuse, 1933. Oil on canvas, 24 x 33.5 cm. Private collection. Image courtesy of 42 Carlton Place, Glasgow. 

Some relief from the recurring anxieties around environmental crisis, technological entanglement and identity politics is offered by the paintings of Serge Charchoune. This exhibition of the neglected French-Russian painter is a revelation: even a relatively limited selection of works encompasses Surrealism, monochrome abstraction and Fauvism while seeming to anticipate later developments in painting (check out the ghostly haze of La Petite Liseuse (1933) for a premonition of Gerhard Richter's blurred photo-paintings). More than its stylistic variety, though, it is the extraordinarily nuanced effects of juxtaposed colour and tone in individual paintings - what in French is called valeur -  that will keep you here long beyond the time at which you should depart for the next gallery on your busy schedule. But save some time to walk around the corner to Oxford House, where more works by Charchoune are joined by a single, exquisite painting by Carol Rhodes, who runs 42 Carlton Place with fellow painter Merlin James, tucked away in a back room.