Gerard Byrne: A State of Neutral Pleasure at the Whitechapel Gallery
You have to be in a serious mood for this exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery. The video installations play a rolling programme of different works where actors re-enact conversations about sexuality, life and ideas, drawn from real historical conversations amongst intellectuals.
There are aspects to admire in the installation, especially the way scenes refer to each other, and at times reflect parts of each other: characters filmed watching on TV scenes which play on different screens.
Other works are on TVs with headphones, again one piece comprising several related conversations and scenes. The walls around show a series of vintage photographs, each a small black and white insight, and all seeming to add up to something, the point of which remains elusive. It’s an effort to feel moved enough to make the connections and figure it all out.
The forced and unnatural quality of acting is too distracting, and makes you appreciate normal TV drama acting, although the mannered style is partly the point.
The Upcoming had been looking forward to this exhibition, but found the experience like reading a novel that everyone has been going on about, only to find that you can’t get on with it and realise life is too short to make yourself finish it. So, neutral rather than pleasurable.
More engaging is the adjacent work by Lucy Cash, Artist in Residence at the Whitechapel, who has produced a multimedia piece exploring the idea of blind sight. When visiting the Whitechapel it’s easy to feel you may have missed something. Although it’s a pleasure to wander and not be too directed, they do not signpost well between gallery rooms.
Gerard Byrne. A State of Neutral Pleasure is at the Whitechapel Gallery from 17th January until 8th March 2013. For further information or to book visit the gallery’s website here.