12 March to 26 April 2008
At Milly Thompson’s exhibition at Peer there are sculptures, videos, and works on paper. There is also an artist’s book –Opera– that takes the form of an interview, which is available to visitors for free. The works are formally and stylistically very different, but all reveal a tension between shifting definitions of ‘the beautiful’ and ‘the aspirational’.
A group of sculptures, all titled Energy Block (a curator's friend), bring together a modernist aesthetic, identified through a Donald Judd-like love of colour, with an entirely un-robust construction material: balsawood – a craft material beloved of the model maker. Their cheerful disposition and physical vulnerability can be construed as either arrogant or charming.
In one of the two video works shown, Basking in the melodrama of my own self consciousness, Thompson shows images of exquisitely handcrafted objects and dancers, unashamedly enjoying the freedom that this creative means of expression affords. These images are intersected with clips of a surreptitiously shot film of a well-dressed middle-aged woman sitting alone at an outdoor café. The soundtrack is a specially recorded cover version of Wild is the Wind. The resulting collage – stitched together using the most basic i-movie techniques – has a celebratory sadness about it, a melancholia that balances precariously on the right side of beguiling.
In two of the works, a photograph and the text piece Opera, Thompson is the subject. But her presence in these pieces is also as a self conscious and self-mocking individual who desires attention, both pity and adulation, yet also wants to remain hidden. In the interview with an unnamed person Thompson describes her past as a member of the collective BANK, and also her work in the past few years since the group have disbanded. Throughout the text she uses the words of different artists, not as quotations, but as her own voice. It is unclear what her moral or artistic stance is, and the authenticity of the interview format is intentionally befuddled. As she states (using her own words), ‘I think that all humans are capable of great thoughts, the problem is fear of making a fool of yourself.’
Opera has been published on the occasion of Milly Thompson's exhibition Late Entry. Click here to buy a copy.
This project has been generously supported by:
The Elephant Trust and Goldsmith's College