Warren Feeney – 2 April, 2014
In its materials, assemblage and delivery, 'Zero Hour Petrified' seems almost unaware of distinctions between aesthetic/social traditions or art practices, operating across and between disciplines: installation, television or movie sound-track, underground comic, sculpture, portraiture, formalist abstraction, trance party or conceptual art. It implies a disinterest in anything that might look like a category.
Zero Hour Petrified
26 March - 17 April 2014
There is a bright-red projected sign in this installation that states ‘Suffering from Realness.’ It delivers a mocking promise of salvation in a gallery space of virtual ‘otherness’ - stacked with an orchestration of brightly coloured, rapidly changing manipulated images of the natural world transformed into objects of amusement - scientific diagrams/comic-book graphics, out-takes from 70s science fiction TV shows, and a spatially shifting soundtrack that somehow frames and coordinates the experience within the space of the Ilam Campus Gallery.
Visiting UK artist Benedict Drew‘s Zero Hour Petrified cross-examines issues around misinformation and distraction in the modern world. The title deals to the misnomer of ‘Zero Hour’ - employment agreements in the United Kingdom in which the employer is not obliged to provide minimum working hours- an employment agreement with a fundamental mistruth about offering an individual work.
Yet, if this installation is touching upon an abyss between the reality of experience and the fabrication of promises in the 21st century, it does so by positioning the gallery visitor in the here and now of its forms, materials, surfaces, colour, sound, equipment, light and imagery.
Drew‘s exhibition seems as appreciative of its make-shift plinths and tables, power cords and junction boxes, as much as it does the unreality of its projected colours and animated imagery. The gallery space is reconfigured as a kind of gleeful gallery technician’s maze. There is ‘stuff’ over much of the floor, orchestrated against and alongside DVD players, stacked screens, trolleys and junction boxes, guiding a way through and around its shifting network of sensory experiences and stimulus. Often this places the gallery visitor in the position of guilty participant. Projected stroboscopic images in close proximity to one another, capturing attention - but which one to focus upon? It is not a choice the visitor is left to make as the rapidity and persistence of Drew’s iconography renders such decisions impotent - just one less decision and/or distraction to deal with.
In its materials, assemblage and delivery, Zero Hour Petrified seems almost unaware of distinctions between aesthetic/social traditions or art practices, operating across and between disciplines: installation, television or movie sound-track, underground comic, sculpture, portraiture, formalist abstraction, trance party or conceptual art. It implies a disinterest in anything that might look like a category, instead alluding to numerous visual connections between materials and images. A looped and meandering orange extension cord renders mundane the integrity of any virtual realities in this installation as its configuration and colours play off a projected image of a diagrammatic ‘eyeball’ and an adjacent orange revolving portrait propped against the gallery wall. And while visually and spatially orchestrating the many components of his show into a sum greater than its parts, Drew‘s dissemination of sound from selected intervals in the gallery occupies an essential role in their reconciliation, serving to locate the visitor in the moment of its space.
Zero Hour Petrified touches upon the accelerating slippage in perception between the reality of experience and the promises of virtual realities. It appears to argue for both empowerment and well-being in the human experience of the here and now, yet does so in an assemblage of images, colours, sound and objects that intimate that Aldous Huxley was probably right. Do not underestimate humanity’s endless appetite for distraction.
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