Sam Austen’s ‘Such Animals’ is a multimedia installation that can be seen at the basement at Paradise Row. It is very difficult to refer to it as art and not as interior decoration of a white cube trying really hard to be an art gallery. Austen behaves like a spoilt child deploying as many resources as possible at both the artistic and the poetic level.  To make sense of this show the viewer/visitor must accept as art something that is presented as poetic but is actually sentimental. Let me be more clear about this.

Upon arrival de viewer is confronted by the following poem by the ‘artist:

For a while some things have been nagging me.
Expressions, floating between meanings. Mirrors repeating ad infinitum.
There has to be an end?
Or a smokes’ duration.
A field, a landscape.
In the corner of your eye.

spotting your opponent.
Supernatural City wires and foggy windows.
Possibility imprints
cause and effect.
They’re decorating some room of emotions,
They’re outlining some vessel containing substance and vision.
The tides washed up last century party things.

This certainly sets the tone for a show that pushes lack of discernment to the fore and aims at magically transforming irresolution into poetic inbetween-ness.

The installation has a film, shot in in 16mm, which, according to the press release ‘explores the relationship between physicality and transience, referencing early pioneers of abstract cinema whilst using light and colour to sculpturally change perceptions on materiality’. If any of you has had the opportunity to watch UK abstract cinema, anything (and I mean anything) can count as ‘referencing it’. This is pretentious beyond comprehension mostly because the reference (or should I say..allusion?) is not specific but generic.

Allegedly, Austen is alluding to the obscure ‘Emile Cohl’s animation Fantasmagorie [1908], where a single line echoes out into numerous shapes to hint at the possibility of infinite forms. Such Animals creates a chaotic and messy abstraction in which geometry goes on it’s own hallucinogenic journey into itself. The shapes tease and mimic with anthropomorphic features, dancing and duelling one another, coalescing madly into a landscape, until unravelling into a used and spent mess. Within the exhibition the screen acts as a stubbing point for the images, a cement fan unit opposite both pulls and pushes material into the room, the dregs, the burnt and broken remains trapped like matted hair. Suggesting light as a pushing and pulling force unlike air, within the space to whirl the viewer’s attention both into and out of the film’. Not happy with this messy presentation of something that only according to the artist should be considered as poetic, ‘Such Animals’ appears to be the second film of Sam’s to include sound. For that occasion two ‘musicians’ , Jackson Blumenthal and Kugan Vijayatharan, ‘were invited to help create a wildly varied, abruptly paced and immersive sound scape to accompany the viewer into the space’.

All this exercise is so pointless that I wonder whether Paradise Row has gone totally out of their mind. Just a thought.

10 APRIL – 10 MAY 2014

at Pardise Row