Monday, 2 June 2014

ADVENTURES: Rheged, Penrith, Cumbria

ADVENTURES: – is an exhibition which appears to set out to explore the idea of Adventure, through a range of artworks, photographs and installations. It takes the view that adventures can be large or small and even has a do-it-yourself guide to micro-adventures by Alastair Humphreys which encourages you to take off around your home. I’m not sure it really succeeds – this feels to me to be setting the bounds of adventure too wide – but that’s perhaps a reflection of my personal take on the word.

Oddly it was one of the non-adventures that attracted me most – a piece prepared as part of Derek Eland’s project The Wall. For the reasonably fit walking along Hadrian’s wall is not really an adventure, but in recording the conversations with strangers he encountered en route and superimposing these on to a map of the wall Eland produced a delightful narrative in a single work.

By comparison a lot of the photos on display were essentially mute – even where two or three came from a related series I felt the sense of narrative was almost entirely absent – a charge I also felt could be levelled at the paintings on display. They relied for their impact on a simple invocation of the sublime – sometimes just otherness – and left me pondering whether photography could actually catch a sense of adventure at all. The nearest they got was a picture of mountaineer Doug Scott descending Everest with two broken legs but even here there was a need for verbal support – otherwise it was just a guy in a hood struggling in a snow scene which does his achievement in staying alive a massive dis-service.

Another Eland work featured a series of images of lost gloves – a reflection on a single preserved mitt from an Everest expedition. In some ways it felt similar to some of my beach-combing images – which also include a lot of gloves. It’s an interesting paradox that the glove which has been on the literal adventure is now preserved in total safety in the Mountain Heritage collection, while the household and other modest and unpretentious gloves have been cast intro the world to have adventures of their own. Smile

Oli Robson’s climbing/ice axes also held a strange charm. Apparently they represent the development of ice axes through the ages and so could perhaps be seen as a typology. by constructing them in wood they clearly lose their function and become studies in form, perhaps enabling the way they achieve their function to shine through more clearly.

So…overall a bit of mixed bag. Some interesting ideas to look at but ultimately I came away wondering about photography’s place in this particular artistic setting. My contemporaneous notes – for those who want to brave my handwriting – are here as a pdf.

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