Nina Beier

12 September — 13 December 2014, DRAF, London

By Morgan Quaintance

Nina Beier, Installation view of 'Nina Beier' at DRAF 2014. Photo: Matthew Booth Nina Beier, Scheme, 2014. Courtesy Croy Nielsen, Berlin. Photo: Matthew Booth Nina Beier, 'Liquid Assets', 2013. Courtesy Laura Bartlett Gallery, London. Photo: Matthew Booth

This is a strange and oddly stultifying exhibition from London-based Nina Beier. At DRAF a collection of sculptures and readymades are collectively presented as a sustained meditation on the quiddity and ontology of objects. But no comprehensive statement about the nature of material, or our various relationships to it, is formed. Instead, each work seems to function as a separate signpost to, and not an elaboration of, some critical theory concerned with things.

Semiology is directly referenced, while the spectres of Marxism and object oriented ontology filter through the lines of DRAF director, and show curator, Vincent Honoré’s printed gallery text. However, his attempt to pitch Beier’s idiosyncratic collection of objects – Persian rugs, oversized novelty martini glasses, garden hoses – as the centres of a sophisticated network of philosophical references doesn’t convince.

In the first gallery space vegetables are spread across the grey concrete floor, seemingly pulled from green plastic crates stacked up next to them. This is Scheme (2014), an installation created from food, ordered from a local vegetable box delivery service, delivered to DRAF every week. It is an absentminded, myopic work; an unashamed display of waste that broadcasts nothing but the public exercise of disinterested privilege. Perhaps if it looked more thought through, more formally engaging, then the insensitivity of the piece – the fact that it wastes food when so many in the UK's capital city are now turning to food banks – wouldn’t be such an issue.

This problem of formal banality actually resonates throughout the entire exhibition, from the ‘breathing’ digital animations in Lou Lou, Potato Potato, and Money Money (all 2013), to Liquid Assets (2013), a display of bronze armour and accessories artfully placed on shelves in museum style glass cabinets. The sculptures are so visually unengaging that their banality must be a conscious and deliberate choice from Beier. If that line is followed a quite different, but equally troubling exhibition appears. Chuck out the project of philosophical similitude, and Honoré’s display of Beier’s work becomes a meditation on hollowness, on the emptiness of objects and the false promise of things. In all, a deflating experience.

Online exclusive published 7 October 2014