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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace was caught by a camera van driving 32mph over the speed limit

TV
Arts and Entertainment
books
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Iain reacts to his GBBO disaster

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Outlaw Pete is based on an eight-minute ballad from Springsteen’s 2009 Working on a Dream album

books
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012

film
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian

film
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Arts and Entertainment

TV
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.

    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

    ... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
    Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

    Europe's biggest steampunk convention

    Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

    The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor