Goldsmiths Image And Communications MA MFA Degree Review

One can but admire the Goldsmiths approach to its art courses.  By being prepared to allow students to develop autonomously, individually, this institution often produces artists of genuine originality. In taking this approach, the university risks its brand in a way that other venerable M.A’s seem unwilling to, staying committed to an ethos in which personal development is the point, and not the reputation with which future students could be attracted to enrol.  No house style here then, and although there is definitely a variable output, an inconsistency you might not find at the Slade or the R.C.A, the quality work seems to come from a place beyond technical refinement and polish.

Amongst artists using photography or video in the art department, the most impressive is Evariste Maiga’s video work. It’s not clear what makes ‘Not Standing Still’ so magnetic, in which the artist mock’ runs for the entire duration of a gypsy song, or ‘Pain and Joy’ in which he dances around an empty studio to a dance tune, but the emphasis on physicality, the body in the space struggling against stasis and moving for its own sake is strangely empowering.  Confining these ‘performances’ to the medium of video and forcing the spectator to watch them immobile, in a darkened room, only serves to enhance the life energy they seek to promote. Rise, laugh, dance but be serious about it; the walls need not close in if you can move. 

Daniel Shanken’s tour de force installation is so wildly incongruous as to defy description. Suffice to say that it involves video, photographs of the banal rolled up, cut up and ‘hologrammed’,  sound and the booby-trapping of the both the photographs and the bench upon which one is inclined to sit. As one enters, so much is going on that one does not know where to look, and indeed what at.  It’s a dynamic and exciting experience for which text can do no justice.

Also of interest is Anna Chrystal Stephens’s fun and playful work, presenting images hanging off the wall horizontally like masts or clotheslines.  Catherine Hughes’s crushed, neon lit-prints were engaging and novel.

The quality of the work on show at the Image and Communications M.A show (a course that is based on the photographic medium predominantly) is quite variable. As a shorter, one year M.A, there may not have been as much time for artists to produce work of the calibre of which they might be capable, resulting  in the presentation of some clearly under-developed work. Nevertheless, some strong work can be found, and overall there is a youthful energy tying the show together.

The strongest work was that of Jonathan Davies.  Elegantly presented, Davies presents sequences of images in grids or triptychs, accompanied by text, in which one image is obscured, leaving the text to ‘fill it in’ so to speak. A relatively simple idea very well executed, it encourages the viewer to question the relationship between image and text, the instinct one has to read images as sequences and the issues of what is worth documenting.  The notion of breaking up or arresting a sequence foregrounds photography’s mechanical act of freezing time, but also refers to the liminal spaces in which photography and film intersect.

Anatol Bologan’s carefully composed portraits of street performers are aesthetically rich and enigmatic. There’s a subtle mystery to these images that function as straight portraiture on one level, but seem to touch on the absurd or surreal on another. It’s almost discomforting to think of the city as populated by these subjects, decontextualized in this work to seem as if they operate as separate entities to the rest of the populace.

Classical in its presentation, Ashley Yeseul Jang’s delicate, intimate work consists of a series of black and white depictions of interiors the ambiguous details between the public and the private. Documenting the fragments of the everyday may not be novel exactly, but is part of a noble photographic tradition and is well done here. The images rewards sustained investigations and encourage meditation.  
Victoria Cartwright’s still-lives of digital, 3D objects she has created are interesting in that they call into question the role of the genre of which they are a part. If the still-life is just that, about stillness, how does this apply to the digital realm in which stasis isn’t dependent upon on freezing time with the shutter, but rather on  not animating, not triggering movement?  In other words, the still life in the 3D object world is evidence of not taking the actions for which these objects have been created, and in this manner the artist engages with a new kind of practice in which the immaterial can be displayed alongside the material. The forms themselves are

intricate and minutely detailed.  Perhaps images are best described as the documentation of virtual sculpture.
Benedetta Pomini’s record of an encounter with a Mash and Pie shop has produced some nice images, as has Uschi Klein’s street photography, but both would have been more effective with more work or some kind of conceptual underpinning.  It is encouraging to see some ‘straight’ photography, on the other hand, and both artists show the promise of developing more substantial work.

Overall, this year’s Goldsmiths‘ shows are well worth a visit.

Words/ Photos: Kerim Aytac © ArtLyst 2012

Top Image: Daniel Shanken Photo: Courtesy of the Artist

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