Wednesday 9 August 2023

Imperfect Collective at Signal Arts Centre

I greatly enjoyed Imperfect Collective’s recent show Picking Up the Pieces at Signal Arts Centre in Bray. It was probably one of the best and most interesting exhibitions I have seen at Signal! There’s a lot here to unpack – memory, damage & repair, violence, frustration, desperation, perhaps even reconciliation.

The noise of crashing plates from the video was the first thing I noticed, but since the video was already in progress I decided to have a look around the gallery first, before returning to watch it in full. It was a twenty minute long video on a loop. Most of the exhibition was sculptural, with the exception of three self-portraits of the three women who make up the collective: Cathy O'Reilly Hayes, Darina Meagher and Ann Marie Webb.

I looked around at the various works of various awkward shapes on various plinths. All the dishes are of that type that one associates with propriety. I am familiar with the Japanese concept of kintsugi, yet the crockery is glued together carelessly and the glue painted over with gold to represent the idea of kintsugi while not actually being kintsugi (which is far more precise and elegant).

When I get back around to watching the video, I realise that it provides the key to the work. The video is shot in a pool without water so the sound kind of echoes. Three pairs of hands conscientiously place dishes on a table. At first it seems they are setting a table, but no, they continue stacking the dishes precariously. A large, covered, silver but tarnished, roasting dish is placed in the centre of the table and the hands begin polishing. They are not careful at all with the task and the dishes find their way to the pool floor. The noise begins. Eventually high-heeled shoes are thrown at the table of dishes and everything is broken. The shoes remain on the table. Restrictive high heeled shoes have never been part of my wardrobe so throwing them at the table does not represent a rebellion of any sort for me. But I can sort of understand the point (and yes, the high heels are also pointed!).

The press release for the exhibition talks about the societal pressure to avoid failure but I somehow seemed to have missed this concept in the viewing and instead see it entirely as a feminist act of rebellion against upbringing and propriety. There is carelessness in putting back together of the dishes - perhaps there may be some regret in breaking them but the restoration is cursory: they are no longer useful as dishes. The smaller pieces too, the plaster encased shoes kind of holding repaired dishes, no longer serve any shoe-like function. They are white. They are ghosts. 

No comments:

Post a Comment