by Alice Anderson
The Wellcome Collection
22 July – 18 October 2015
How do we remember the past and commit moments to memory? This is one of the questions that artist Alice Anderson addresses in her latest exhibition ‘Memory Movement Memory Object’. In this painstaking and slick exhibition our visual sensibilities have been given to a treat.
Anderson has taken ordinary objects from our everyday lives and elevated them to iconic status by wrapping them in copper wire; the process itself becoming an almost religious and physically beautiful ritual. The catalogue states that “beautiful and uncanny sculptures prompt you to rediscover things you thought you already knew”.
By using mundane objects, it seems that Anderson has ordered the world, promising – by association – a better, more beautiful existence; a Utopian world where there is no rush, or dirt, or noise, or strife. However, it is true that if you put enough things together of the same colour and brilliance and present them beautifully, as she has done, then almost anything would seem impressive. But that is the point, I think.
As you enter the dark, expectant spaces of the Wellcome Collection you are met by a golden Ford Mustang, this iconic car, a pristine and copper-coloured phantom (sans fittings, sans, doors, sans mirrors, sans any defining features at all) seemed to promise exciting things to come.
In the second room (which felt like the ‘main installation’) each black podium disappeared into the similarly black background, making the rose-tinted objects shimmer, even float in a guard-of-honour leading the visitor along and up an ethereal stairway to something mysterious; an implied perfect place perhaps? Whilst in that room I was strongly reminded of a Sacred Inca place of worship, was it all that golden glow or the pyramid-shaped staircase, I cannot be sure?
The objects were protected, glamorised and hidden, producing, what could be described as, ‘silk purses out of a sow’s ear’. The clean, sharpness of the presentation and the precise and important lighting added to the overall effect of being in a sacred space, with a litany of minor deities on their pedestals. But it is a funny kind of religion that doesn’t celebrate the details or the differences.
Nonetheless, I loved this visual treat, the shapes, the setting, the lighting and I think it went some way towards a better appreciation of the commonplace. Anderson has run with Duchamp’s idea of the ready-made and taken it one step further – no mean feat – by showing that anything is capable of change. Thus cleverly combining the spiritual with the conceptual.
My only doubt was with the claims made by the curators that “both the making and display of works interrogate how we create, record and transform the past”, yes I get this, but “how we imagine the future”, is too great a leap of faith for me.
Alice Anderson, whose hair is, coincidentally, the same colour as her copper wire, has produced a stunningly attractive body of work, and it was a joy to walk through it. Surely that is claim enough for me to recommend this to you, my reader, even though I cannot see my ability to imagine the future to be enhanced in any way.