David Askevold: The Disorientation Scientist, Camden Arts Centre, London

3.00

The late David Askevold is the kind of artist whose great influence on contemporary art is perhaps best tracked via his influence on other artists. As a teacher at California's CalArts in the 1970s he taught a generation of artists that included Mike Kelley and Tony Oursler, who were intrigued by his experiments in video, installation and photography, opening up, for them, a distinct form of eerie, edgy conceptualism. Indeed, it was Kelley who called him the "Disorientation Scientist", in an obituary in Artforum following Askevold's death in 2008. It's a useful moniker, used as the title of this small retrospective at Camden Arts Centre, in terms of understanding the artist's work, looking at hallucinogenic, psychedelic or dramatic experience with an analytical eye.

Askevold's work with rattlesnakes from the 1970s introduces the exhibition. Plotting and planning as though it were an important science experiment, The artist set up a situation in which six snakes were given metal balls so that they could play an improvised rendition of Kepler's Music of the Spheres. In video documentation one sees the snakes encircling the balls and pushing them around in their coils; Askevold recorded the sounds as they chimed against one another: an arrhythmic, dreamy sound that rings out in the exhibition space. We can read his plans, detailed nearby, for another action involving six participants who were to stand in a circle, baiting a bag of rattlesnakes with branches on a site in New Mexico. It sounds ill advised and dangerous, and, indeed, the work went terribly wrong: a snake bit a student volunteer, and the camera used to document the event was knocked over and ruined in the ensuing kerfuffle and rush to hospital. Askevold typed a written account of the accident, which is now presented as a work in itself. There a wild, even violent, sense of the "try anything" in these works that appears occasionally throughout this exhibition, but it's a sense that is often subdued or frustrated.

The Ghost of Hank Williams was, for a long time, an unrealised performance project that the artist sketched out in 1979. Fascinated by the country singer and his early death, Askevold planned to stage a performance of loops and recording equipment, in which dry ice would cascade from the ceiling, as "Ramblin' Man" would play, while a woman would call out "Hank! Hank!" It's a wonderfully evocative idea, but as an installation it's disappointing. There's a long wooden beam that one can sit on to watch some fragments on a television screen. It's hard to get much from this – the idea alone, sketched out in chalk, would have been better than this disappointing rendition.

Askevold laid photographs on top of one another to strong effect in Ten States in the West (1978), a woozy, hallucinogenic strip of photographic prints. In one frame we see a monochrome news image of a dead body under a pool table with its black blood covering the floor; this is overlayed with a glossy red-toned image of a woman's face – her siren's lips and eyes both cherry red. Fire – that unpredictable, seductive element – recurs throughout the exhibition. In the film Nova Scotia Fires (1969) we see it spreading, tumbling past the sea, dangerously close to the shore, licking the landscape and the water. It's magical, hypnotic and dangerous, like the best of Askevold's work.

To 25 September (020 7472 5500)

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
filmThe singers widow and former bandmates have approved project
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Will there ever be a Friends reunion?
TV
News
Harry Hill plays the Professor in the show and hopes it will help boost interest in science among young people
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
A Van Gogh sold at Sotheby’s earlier this month
art
Arts and Entertainment

MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word

Arts and Entertainment
It would 'mean a great deal' to Angelina Jolie if she won the best director Oscar for Unbroken

Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says

Arts and Entertainment
Winnie the Pooh has been branded 'inappropriate' in Poland
books
Arts and Entertainment
Lee Evans is quitting comedy to spend more time with his wife and daughter

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

music
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

music
Arts and Entertainment
Look out: Broad shoulders take Idris Elba’s DCI John Luther a long way
tvIdris Elba will appear in two special episodes for the BBC next year
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
    There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

    In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

    The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

    It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
    The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

    Staying connected: The King's School

    The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
    Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

    Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

    Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
    Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

    Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

    The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
    Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

    When two worlds collide

    Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
    Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

    Putin’s far-right ambition

    Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
    Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

    Escape to Moominland

    What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?