Time Passes, Don’t Miss it: Destruction and Disorder at the SLG

Room one of the South London gallery has become a disaster site. Cardboard walls crumple in, hollow bricks litter the floor, and painted bullet holes spray across the room.

The space commands visitors duck beneath untidily strewn tape and tiptoe over its rubble. Polystyrene sheets hang precariously from walls, looking as if they could topple at any instant. What seems like the aftermath of an explosion and the anticipation of sudden implosion however, is clearly a result of careful craftsmanship.

Artist Hirschhorn draws attention to this in paint sprawled across a sheet untidily: “Destruction is difficult; indeed, it is as difficult as creation”- words first written from prison by captive Marxist politician Antonio Gramsci, which expose the pieces political implications. Other peculiar contrasts stand in Hirschborn’s work. Flimsy pieces of cardboard fashion bricks and mortar which house sturdy porcelain toilets, whilst the childish comedy of painted bricks and bullet-holes sits a little uneasily with the violence they portray. The result is a compellingly theatrical jungle of layered waste and philosophical cues.

Upstairs is a calmer, more familiar scene. Nonetheless, Ane Hjort Guttu’s films contain a similar underlying fascination with destruction as she questions normative social values and codes. Both shot in a documentary style, the first of her two films exhibited, Freedom Requires Free People, follows an eight year old primary school student exposing early indoctrination in the Norwegian schooling system- which looks rather similar to our own-, and the effects of limited space for critical thinking on our freedom.

Away from the precocious child, her second film Time Passes seems more mature. Like Hirschhorn’s’ work, it is deeply involved with the political role of art, exploring the recent prohibition of begging in Norway. As the film sees a young artist form a relationship with a beggar for an art project, larger questions on the nature of intervention in poverty, exploitation of the poor, and what should be considered as art, are interspersed with subtler racial and gendered implications that feed into the films complex framework of privilege. The issues Guttu presents stem from the Norwegian educational and political world, but this becomes almost irrelevant as we recognise the same systems and problems at play within the UK.

There is a persistent desire to break order, but it is an articulate desire that increasingly calls us to challenge and question. Whether it is from the tactile exploration of Hirschhorn’s work, or the more direct presentation in Guttu’s videos, interrogation lies at the heart of both pieces, and for that, each can only offer us limited answers.

Both Time Passes and In Between are showing at the South London Gallery until Sun 13th Sep 2015

Nina Marcovic-Obiago

Image Source: Evening Standard