Wednesday, 26 September 2012


Walking into Hoxton Square White Cube is a bit like entering a weird, abstracted version of a History of Art lecture. White-grey light from two slide projectors flickers through the otherwise dimly-lit space of the ground floor; quietly rhythmic, click-clacking slides take us through a series of images. Today’s topics: plain wall with skirting board; small painting hung on wall; large piece of propped-up Perspex. A bronze head; the same image rotated; a close up of the eye. What do these slides really tell us about the spaces and objects that they are representing?

Ways of seeing, ways of teaching, ways of reproducing images and knowledge: these boundless areas of debate in critical art history form the backbone of any half-decent undergraduate course in the subject. Artist Runa Islam, whose exhibition opened at White Cube last week, adds her contribution to these ideas in a selection of works produced especially for the gallery. Islam denies her viewers any clear or specific narrative; rather than passively absorbing information presented to us, we are to consider the usual processes of that absorption. Watching her 35mm films is like attending a lecture without a lecturer. But rather than being liberating, the experience is somewhat uninteresting.

The exhibition's opening night last week was a raging least for Peroni. Scores of people standing outside of the Hoxton Square gallery space chatted over small green bottles of the tasty Italian beer. Perhaps predictably, the gallery itself was less densely populated, with only a few visitors (some slightly swaying) half-interestedly surveying Islam’s work.

Don’t get me wrong – I love a good vernissage. Contemporary art and free booze can pretty much be summed up as a winning combination. It is only when the exhibition-viewing becomes subsidiary to the drinking do you get the feeling something might have gone a bit awry in the event planning.

Or maybe we need a little more meat from an exhibition than only the slightly tired self-conscious analysis of communication through artistic media. 

Runa Islam, White Cube Hoxton Square runs until 3rd November.

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