Mark Leckey: See We Assemble, Serpentine Gallery, London
Friday 20 May 2011
Imagine the art exhibition as a blockbuster action movie: perhaps something like The Expendables (2010), in which hefty stars like Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis are brought together (at last!) to spray bullets, pummel and high five: powerful presences brought together. Mark Leckey, in his first major public gallery show in London since winning the Turner Prize in 2008, has brought together some other powerful presences – brands – as though they were the stars of his show. Artists, galleries, electronics companies: all flattened into brands. Samsung! Henry Moore! Serpentine! Fiorucci! Hyde Park! Entering the Serpentine, one is confronted with a trailer for this exhibition – the one that is happening now – announcing the presence of these in his show.
Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore (1999), Leckey's grainy film compiled from VHS footage and stripped-down music samples, is on view here, as a cornerstone to the exhibition. In this film, young people in clubs, dancing to Northern soul or Nineties rave, lose it on the dancefloor, euphoric with music, drugs and wild movement. The names of clothing labels: Gucci, Kappa, Fiorucci, can be heard, recited within the music: exotic-sounding words that summon Italian glamour or ancient Greek symbols, and one starts to see those brands as stepping stones towards this transcendent state: people coming together, wearing and inhabiting some possibility at the edge of a branded item, and becoming transformed by it. A huge sculpture of speakers next to the film, a dominating, monumental presence, plays out the soundtrack.
Brands are slippery, multivalent things – those in advertising and marketing often discuss "brand DNA", or the "heart of the brand". Leckey's installations and films show how these things get inside us, and change, if not our DNA, then something important about our makeup as beings. Music does this too, it has a physical presence comprised of bases and trebles that changes us physically and mentally, and in the central gallery Leckey has staged a face-off between Henry Moore's Upright Motive No 9 (1979), a tall, dominating bronze sculpture of hulking, yet elegant form, and another of the artist's large sound-system sculptures, with speakers piled high and strapped together so that they reach the height of the Moore. Sounds occasionally emit from the sculpture, challenging and conversing with the bronze figure.
If Leckey is interested in getting under the skin of a bronze art historical object, and a British artistic brand in the shape of Henry Moore, in another work he tries to get into the "mind" of a refrigerator: the Samsung RFG293HABP, an "intelligent" appliance that understands information about its contents. In a green screen room, we see the black glossy fridge, open ajar, and hear an electronic voice that narrates its mind: "it's so cold here in the dark", while on two screens we see the green screen activated with different backgrounds. We see the fridge travel underground, taking up the heat of the earth and turning it cold. We see its makeup, its insides, its technological wonder. This funny, yet coolly melancholic work suggests that the future might be out of our hands, and might rather be found in the chilly grasp of the technology that has made us.
To 26 June (020 7402 6075)
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Peter Lik: The self-proclaimed 'fine-art photographer' whose work sells for millions
The best underrated Christmas movies from Love, Actually to While You Were Sleeping
Grace Dent on TV: The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies was a beautifully shot, immensely considered drama
The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies, review: Jason Watkins is brilliant, but real victim Joanna Yeates is reduced to a footnote
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
New era of cheap oil 'will destroy green revolution'
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Ukip founder Alan Sked and Nigel Farage 'begged Enoch Powell to stand as a candidate'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant