It's political certainly, but is it correct?

INSTALLATION ARTS Relocating the Remains Royal College of Art, London; Fat Cow Tannery Gallery, London

W hat it feels like to be black and what it feels like to be fat: hands-on experiences offered by two installation artists in shows that opened at the Royal College of Art and at the Tannery Gallery (in Bermondsey Street, south London) this month.

Confronted by the interactive CD-Rom game Caught Like a Nigger in Cyberspace and with an electronic mouse as a trigger, you know you have to shoot the black man jigging about within the superimposed gunsights in order to enter the scenario. With an all-black gallery staff watching you, it can be embarrassing - whether you are white or black.

Cyberspace is one of three CD-Rom / video works by the 36-year-old black British artist, Keith Piper, curated at the RCA by the Institute of International Video Arts.

Much of the impact of this, his 15-year mid-career retrospective, Relocating the Remains, comes from his use of stunningly brilliant digital technology as a medium for issue-led art.

In his video collage, Unrecorded Histories, a big screen shows hands turning the pages of the log book of a slave ship as the plan of a deck cargo of slaves drifts eerily across the background and the good ship Jesus, the first slaver, sets sail for Africa. The viewer, hand to mouse, is ensconced at a polished mahogany office desk lit by a brass lamp, as the images swirl and blend within a decorative gilt frame - posh objects redolent of dominant white culture. There is a soundtrack of sad negro songs.

But to return to the "nigger" lost in cyberspace: if you shoot straight, you will be rewarded with "a welcome beneath the silicon sun for you and your family" (a young white mom, pop and baby zoom out, grinning) and an opportunity to apply for entry by choosing the user profile that best describes you. The correct (as in PC) click-on choice is either the nerdy Tech-Head or Other, a black silhouette. But the successful choice is the Al Gore Lookalike. It's witty.

"Others" are invited to abandon their application, to trespass in cyberspace (very nasty, more opportunities to shoot the black man), or are told, "Wait until we are ready to see you" - the caption to a roomful of empty chairs. Click on the "I'm off" spot or wait for ever.

My clicks kept sending me back to the same feisty blonde receptionist and her message: "Thank you for visiting Cyberspace. Have a nice day." Piper told me afterwards: "I think she's rather pleasant."

He gets his astonishing effects from a humble Apple Macintosh 8200 that cost him pounds 1,200 two years ago and the software packages Photoshop and After Effects.

CD-Rom /video art is about as little known in this country as black art. Piper and Sonia Boyce, Britain's leading black artists, are seldom reviewed outside the art press. As for Britain's white electronic artists, only Simon Robertshaw has gained mainstream acclaim, for his sequences of a rotting cow at the Natural History Museum.

Final embarrassment at the hands of Piper: his electronic exploration of black masculinity in Negrophilia, on a small screen right beside the RCA's reception desk. My first few clicks located a black man in flagrante with a white woman (cue soundtrack of female gasps), then the white female cliche, "To you I was always just a body", captioning an image of a black female nude. I made an excuse and clicked "Exit".

As an experience of identity, Gill Oliver's Fat Cow installation, one of the exhibits that had a four-day run in "Sight Unseen" at the Tannery Gallery earlier this month, was not much easier.

There were no electronics, but usherettes aided viewers in making a quick- click choice between two entry doors marked "Not thin" and "Not fat", rubber-stamping the backs of our hands accordingly.

The criteria for "Not thin", they explained to the perplexed, were a waist in excess of 34ins for men and a dress size larger than 14 for women. These days, even a size 16, the commonest size, is considered fat. You get the idea.

Through the doors, in a darkened room, hang a dozen suspended latex moulds of the head and torso of the artist, swaying in draughts of air from fans and illuminated by flashing green lights. Ms Oliver is 5ft 1in tall and weighs 16-and-a-half stone.

It was difficult to squeeze past the pale, puffy forms without touching them. Acrylic mirrors on the walls distorted them, while an audio track dispensed muffled insults, such as, "Look at the state of that!"

Ms Oliver is a social worker who runs a residential home and day centre for people with learning disabilities. She knows the damage mockery can do. This was her first installation and she was pleased with the response. Among the remarks in her visitors' book: "It hurt. Maybe only thin people should be allowed in." But why did some people kiss the moulds?

'Keith Piper: Relocating the Remains' continues at the RCA, Kensington Gore, London SW7 (0171-636 1930) to 13 August; the accompanying monograph and CD-Rom are available at the exhibition price of pounds 15

Arts and Entertainment
Legendary charm: Clive Owen and Keira Knightley in 2004’s ‘King Arthur’
FilmGuy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle the legend
Arts and Entertainment
Corporate affair: The sitcom has become a satire of corporate culture in general

TV review

Broadcasting House was preparing for a visit from Prince Charles spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: There are some impressive performances by Claire Skinner and Lorraine Ashbourne in Inside No. 9, Nana's Party spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Glastonbury's pyramid stage

Glastonbury Michael Eavis reveals final headline act 'most likely' British pair

Arts and Entertainment
Ewan McGregor looks set to play Lumiere in the Beauty and the Beast live action remake

Film Ewan McGregor joins star-studded Beauty and the Beast cast as Lumiere

Arts and Entertainment
Charlie feels the lack of food on The Island with Bear Grylls

TV

The Island with Bear Grylls under fire after male contestants kill and eat rare crocodile
Arts and Entertainment
Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Quicksilver and Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch, in a scene from Avengers: Age Of Ultron
filmReview: A great cast with truly spectacular special effects - but is Ultron a worthy adversaries for our superheroes? spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Ince performing in 2006
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Beth (played by Jo Joyner) in BBC1's Ordinary Lies
tvReview: There’s bound to be a second series, but it needs to be braver spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry, the presenters of The Great Comic Relief Bake Off 2015

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A still from Harold Ramis' original Groundhog Day film, released in 1993

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury

music

Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas

film

Arts and Entertainment

music

Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7

film

Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary

TV

Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige

TV

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

  • Get to the point
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.

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence