Ready for their close-up: The Near and the Elsewhere exhibition

 

Those of us who imagined that the perfect lives in The Truman Show constituted a glimpse of the future could have no better reality check than The Near and the Elsewhere, a potent exhibition of visual artworks at the PM Gallery at Pitzhanger Manor, Ealing, London. These unsettling freeze-frames – by turns surreal, mysterious, or coruscatingly depressing – are like slides from some urban-cum-architectural pathology lab.

Post-Lehman Brothers, we are in a crumple-zone of perpetual change. Buildings, and places, are implicitly ephemeral and the relationship between growth and destruction has never been so violent – but how often do we notice the details of the urban metastases all around us?

The show, curated by Gaia Persico, forces the viewer into brusque confrontations. How, for example, can we look at Michael Wolf's telephoto compaction of tower block facades in Hong Kong and not feel a jab of guilt for admiring the "artistic" 3D effects of the image before we even consider the profound banality of the architecture we're looking at? In Wolf's portraits of lives in the 10ft-by-10ft "homes" inside these high-rises, are the people and objects crammed in these spaces dehumanised, or richly and obdurately human?

Sarah Beddington's segues of stills, from her 16mm film Close To You, defy recognition. Are we looking at an abandoned weapons-testing facility, or something agricultural? Noel Jabbour's images of abandoned $1m homes in America are more obviously laconic, as are Edgar Martins's hyper-precise depictions of other empty houses. And Gaia Persico's paintings of a Santa Monica car-park and a plush hotel lobby are intensely strange.

The Near and the Elsewhere, PM Gallery, London W5 (020 8567 1227) to 17 March

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