Narinda Cook, Paul Irving Nine3
Opening: Tuesday 22 February, 6-8pm Dates: 22 February-12 March 2005
Narinda Cook & Paul Irving
by Zara Stanhope
“The unexpected. It is inevitably a pleasant surprise to come across an exhibition offering unforseen qualities. It sets the work apart from the pervasive sense of familiarity or re-working that is taking up a disproportionate amount of gallery space, created both by artists employing the benefit of maturity and retrospectivity or young things still coming to terms with creative practice and its history. Or perhaps this sense of déjà vu is a sign of my age?
The small but exquisite work that caught me unawares was at the rear of Bus. As in previous projects that I have seen, Narinda Cook and Paul Irving – whether working singly or in collaboration as here – generously invite the viewer to kick back from the everyday mindset. In my mind’s eye I see them creating their own worlds within worlds, or quarantining a chosen part of the physical realm within a human-scale snow dome – a reality shaken, the surroundings stirred and new forms settled upon.
Bus is a space that prides itself on its nondescript street presence and Cook and Irving’s provisional situation felt almost illicit, secreted behind black curtaining at the gallery’s rear. While emitting a low sound, indicative of Irving’s contribution and talents, there was little else to indicate the existence or affect of the work. A darkened space lay behind the curtain, one permeated with the possibilities of the cube. A volume of darkness was filled at the centre with mysterious globular forms and suffused un Review: Narinda Cook & Paul Irving with industrial sounds in stereo. The Nine3 grid of circles of red and green light suspended at the centre of the space gave the impression of hovering, a dematerialisation of form and its tactility that has been a constant hallmark of Cook’s previous two and three-dimensional work.
True to the experience of any sound, light or moving image work, being there was the best way to experience the work. Sensual and physical immediacy were its predominant appeal. Yet in retrospect, one of Nine3 ’s most interesting features was not its resemblance to a private chill-out room meets dance floor or its invitation to empty the mind, but the accumulative physiological effect of strobing light that overrode the meditative pleasures of the environment. This effect was as far from the regularly paced, ‘re-energising’ tempo of muzak as Bus is from a public art space.
Nine 3 was also distinctive for the artists’ courage in creating an installation that took on the kind of work seen in better funded museums and galleries and would be equally at home in non-art venues, where its visitors would greatly outnumber the ‘art audience’. In its incarnation there was plenty to occupy the gallery-goer, who could locate metaphors for the rationality yet fallibility of science, or might be turned on by the historicity and annotation of minimalist grids, and who were not yet sated by notions of immersion and their philosophical relation to the mind, body and spirit.
Visiting an art space, it is impossible not to be aware of your own performative actions (especially when you are a curator and therefore eternally a guest, in a sense, in the home of art). Cook and Irving’s work offered a surprisingly deceptive theatre, generating a cocktail of pleasure and pain; inviting you to forget yourself, unwind and enjoy the tempo of the darkness, only to be reminded of the body by the mind’s warning signals. It is invigorating to know that we can still empty our minds or be disorientated, or that science has no explanation for why the speed of light is slowing down and what that means…
Zara Stanhope, Deputy Director and Senior Curator at Heide Museum of Modern Art.”