supported by the Norwegian Arts Council
14. DECEMBER to 5. JANUARY 2013
OPENING 14. DEC. 8PM
On behalf of the network Due Diligence Development Circuit, Small Projects is pleased to announce Rory Middleton´s exhibition, Inverted Space. Middleton has developed a site-specific installation at Small Projects, in which a new sound score has been produced in collaboration with the Stockholm-based sound producer Martin Ehrencrona and Mount Analogue.
An integral narrative running throughout the exhibition is an excerpt from an interview, which the Canadian architect Arthur Erikson (1924-2009) gave in 1973. Erikson´s reflections on the use of sky, scale and notions of nature in relation to certain recurring concerns of Modernist architecture have been abstracted and interspersed with percussion instruments and composed in relation to Middleton´s projected video works, depicting subtly shifting and morphing landscapes and wildlife. Middleton has devised a water feature and installed sculptural works, which reflect and reverberate the projected sounds and images interplaying throughout the exhibition.
Rory Middleton (1977) lives and works in Portobello, Scotland. He studied at Leith School of Art, Edinburgh and Falmouth College of Arts and received his MFA at the Glasgow School of Art in 2006. Recent exhibitions include The View, a solo Exhibition shown both at Cove Park, Scotland 2012, and at The Banff Centre in Canada 2010, the piece combined film, live musical performance and sculpture. Steady Water – Fogo Island, 2012, an architectural form made of timber frames with thin walls of ice to create a projection surface for the unique colours of a filmed sunset in Fogo Island, projected out of focus. Film works include Lessonlands, 2008 and Searching for Hjetna, 2010 in which the landscape forms a central character.
Due Diligence Development Circuit (DDDC) formed in 2012 as a network of learning-oriented culture producers in the Nordic and Baltic region. The partners (Weld/Mount Analogue - Sweden, Ptarmigan - both in Finland and Estonia and Small Projects - Norway) are all joined by philosophical affinities and a strong desire to create participatory programming geared towards creative skills development. All of the partners are non-profit, artist-run platforms, and view the operation of their events as an artistic project in itself.
The exhibition has been supported by Kulturkontakt Nord, Creative Scotland and The Norwegian Arts Council.
THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE HOME!
By Peter Stuart Robinson
Published on TROMSØBY 17.12.2012
It’s cold, it’s dark, I’m late. So just another typical night (or day) in Tromsø – or is it? So far, so much the same: I trip into the Small Projects gallery, one of my favourite places in this my favourite town – my home town. I suppose there’s always a surprise waiting at Small Projects, a gallery boasting a seemingly endless procession of the most weird and wonderful contemporary artists, from both home and abroad. Yes! This is what it’s all about – the lifeblood of the city! Viva La Small Projects!
But this is not just another predictably unpredictable evening out in Tromsø. This time I’m in for a bigger surprise than usual. I’m mesmerised, as I step inside, by the startlingly surreal environment, bathed sparingly in its own microcosmic twilight. An apparent midnight river draws me, hypnotised, towards the strangely distant but beckoning image of butterflies, newly released from their pupae, ready to take wing... More blindly than usual, I stumble forward – and straight into the water! My arrival is announced to fellow punters by the spray on their backs, closely followed by my own involuntary squeal of surprise.
I suppose I pride myself on being a pretty jaded gallery-goer. Hey! I’ve seen it all! I mean, I’ve been to documenta! So of course I never doubt that what I – admittedly rather dimly – see before me is some cleverly simulated mock water, which I might, like Jesus, simply walk across. Clearly, this self-styled art connoisseur is not as savvy, never mind as holy, as he believes. ‘You’re not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy!’ And then again…
What I like about the reference to the Wizard of Oz (which I’ve often used before and will doubtless use again) is its uniquely Hollywood Technicolor surrealism. Is she in Kansas? In a way but it’s a Kansas distorted and transformed by a psychedelic dream (or trip?), her friends and neighbours morphed into colourful – yet disturbingly familiar – characters like The Tin Man or The Wizard. And at that moment on Friday evening, in Small Projects, I felt a bit like Dorothy, disorientated, transported by surreal typhoon to an alternative-reality Tromsø, as though the exterior surroundings had been transformed by my own, interior journey – before the rude awakening of my unplanned paddle in the water-feature, that is!
The ‘architect’ of this beguiling environment is Scottish artist Rory Middleton. He lives and works in Portobello, and studied at Leith School of Art and Falmouth College of Arts. His recent exhibitions include The View, shown both at Cove Park, in Scotland, in 2012, and at The Banff Centre, in Canada, in 2010.
Middleton has taken great care in his interior reconstruction of the Small Projects gallery, from the ingenious water-feature, which creates a false sense of perspective, to the haunting video ‘stills’ to which our disarmed attention is irresistibly drawn. His acknowledged inspiration is an architect ‘proper’, the late, Canadian Arthur Erickson. Indeed, we hear the voice of Erikson himself over the Tannoy, interspersed with the ambient and percussive sounds which form the aural backdrop of the installation. Erikson was interested in our sense of place, and how this might be expressed, not least in our built environments.
One response to place is to pay it little heed, to rise above its parochial confines, and thereby distinguish oneself from it entirely, that is, simply to stand out. This is the principle, according to Erikson, of a distinctively Western building tradition, with its vertical forms expressing the yearning to reach upwards, to be as visible and conspicuous as possible against – and in contrast to – one’s surroundings. Such buildings celebrate the autonomous individual and the triumph over nature.
A more Eastern approach, by contrast, is rather to spread outwards, organically blending and harmonising with one’s surroundings. It is this ideal that Erikson tried to express in his buildings as much as Middleton in his installation, ‘Inverted Space’, which opened in the Small Projects gallery on Friday evening.
Strangely enough, I actually worked in one of Erickson’s buildings myself, longer ago than I care to mention, at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia. This inward-looking and ironically monumental tribute to the academic quadrangle was, in my view, an aesthetic failure. I believe Middleton’s efforts are flattered by the comparison. He has achieved a greater fidelity to Erickson’s principles than Erickson himself.
The result could be thought of as an odd kind of meeting. You feel that Middleton came to Tromsø in all its strangeness and wondered how to fit in, as though we collectively spoke to him and he, in some confusion but also with some humour and good will, replied. The installation extends and interacts with the place we know as Tromsø, expressing irony and a few unsettling associations reminiscent of dreams.
We are led from darkness into a kind of stage-set for a summer metamorphosis, which nevertheless seems to echo, in its own way, the cold and the twilight from which we have, like would-be butterflies, emerged. This dreamlike disjuncture is the source of the exhibition’s unmistakably surrealistic effect.
Though I don’t necessarily recommend a dip in the water, ‘Inverted Space’ really is one of the rarer gems to appear on the ever fruitful but inevitably uneven ‘artscape’ of our culture-conscious town. So I do recommend that you dive right in – metaphorically, that is – and experience this multidimensional metamorphosis for yourself. It will be open at Small Projects, Grønnegata 23, this week from Wednesday to Friday (19th-21st December), 12:00-16:00, and once again in the New Year, 9th-19th January, also 12:00-16:00. There’s no place like home!