Simon Starling: Never the Same River, Camden Arts Centre, London

Starling's show slips between histories as he brings together works from CAC shows of the past 50 years

I'll admit there was a time when I didn't get the whole artist-curator thing, when it struck me as a con: scour collections for works by people more talented than yourself, put them in a show, mumble something about "meta-art" and bask in the reflected glory. It took Mark Wallinger's Russian Linesman to persuade me that there was virtue in the process, and Simon Starling's Never the Same River at Camden Arts Centre to do so again.

Camden Arts Centre is an oddity among London's public galleries, and all the better for it. Although it has a long history of putting on clever, prescient shows, its relative distance from the beaten track makes it a bit of a secret. You can look at good modern art there without being elbowed by Italians, which can't be bad. Artists love it, Starling, a Turner prizewinner and one-time CAC artist-in-residence, prime among them. In Never the Same River, he brings together works from CAC shows over the past 50 years, the result being both a homage to the gallery and a meditation on artspaces in general. Put broadly, Starling's take is this: however you cut it, showing art means showing history.

One of the first works in Never the Same River is a plywood lounger, made for the nearby Isokon flats in 1936 by the Hungarian émigré Marcel Breuer, and exhibited at CAC in 1975. How many histories is that? Breuer's furniture was intently forward-looking, Modernist. Yet we see it backwards, as a design classic, almost an antique. Would Breuer's deckchair have looked like that the last time it was shown here, when the designer was alive and the streets around inhabited by his fellow Jewish refugees? History refuses to move in a conveniently straight line. In trying to historicise art, institutions are doomed to fail.

And so Starling's show slips between histories, some of its works being about the slipperiness of history. Matthew Buckingham's False Futures is a continuous 16mm loop of a bridge in Leeds, shot in 2007 and echoing a similar shot of the scene made in 1888 by the French cinematographer Louis Le Prince. Although Buckingham's work is not a recreation, it occasionally coincides with his own continuous voice-over description of Le Prince's film: a woman enters bottom left just as Buckingham's voice describes a woman doing so. Coincidence, synchronicity or manipulation? We never know. And while Le Prince's movie is barely a minute long, Buckingham's is endless, a flicker of time generating filmic eternity.

We're short on words this week, so I'll just say that among the artists with whom Starling plays time-games are Graham Gussin, Francis Bacon, Susan Hiller and Francis Upritchard, each represented by a work shown at CAC some time in the past half-century. Most foxing of all is Mike Nelson's Studio Apparatus for Camden Arts Centre, which is itself both a meditation on, and a piece of, history. The work, a trademark Nelson walk-through, was first erected at CAC in 1998. As you wander among its wooden sheds and Sprite-can fetish objects, you feel that Nelson was trying to outsmart history – creating an anthropology for a tribe that seems familiar but which never existed. And yet Nelson has himself been outsmarted, because his installation is now itself an artefact, a recreation. History always wins.



To 20 Feb (020-7472 5500)



Next Week

Charles Darwent goes wholesome with Norman Rockwell at Dulwich Picture Gallery

Charles Darwent: Visual Art 2010

Best Show A tough call, in a good year. The Gauguinfest at Tate Modern managed to stay acutely focused in spite of its size, while the Courtauld's tiny Cézanne's Card Players made typically much of little. The best new work? Without a doubt, Fiona Banner's minatory Harrier and Jaguar at Tate Britain.



Worst Show It was a relatively lemon-free year, although two of my least favourites also came courtesy of Tates. Tate Britain's Eadweard Muybridge seemed to overlook its subject's impact on art, right, and should have been at the Science Museum. Tate Modern's Exposed was just too big, although it gets a special prize for having the most rude bits.



Most Unfortunate I had the good luck to walk across Ai Weiwei's Sunflower Seeds at Tate Modern before it was shut down on health grounds. The experience will live with me. The work is still sublime, but to have such titanic effort come to so circumscribed an end seems sad.

RIP June 2010 saw the passing of Sigmar Polke, German painter, inventor of the Polke-dot and lyricist of the sock and the potato. Polke's own school, Capitalist Realism, out-Warholed Warhol in celebrating the unutterably banal. He is rumoured to have priced his work by doubling whatever his age happened to be and adding three noughts. You have to love him for that.

Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

Arts and Entertainment
Dapper Laughs found success through the video app Vine

comedy Erm...he seems to be back

Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)

tvReview: No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Arts and Entertainment
Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly flanking 'Strictly' winners Flavia Cacace and Louis Smith

tv Gymnast Louis Smith triumphed in the Christmas special

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
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.

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

    The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
    Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

    Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

    France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
    Sports Quiz of the Year

    Sports Quiz of the Year

    So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

    From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

    Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect