BY Bryony White in Books , Reviews | 22 MAR 21

Absurd Fables, Heavy Questions and Crocodile Tears: Simon Moretti at PEER

'Crocodile Cradle', a collaborative project in the London gallery's window, collages together new and found texts by 51 artists, reflecting on how the pandemic has stratified society

BY Bryony White in Books , Reviews | 22 MAR 21

We are yet to fully know how the events of the past year will congeal in aesthetic form. Ideated by Simon Moretti, Crocodile Cradle (2021), a collaborative project at PEER, presents texts by 51 artists – including Tacita Dean, Lubaina Himid, Joan Jonas, Christian Marclay and Cerith Wyn Evans – across three socially-distanced platforms: a filmed performance, accessed online; a text collage in the gallery window; and a book, to be published this summer.

christian marclay crocodile cradle
Christian Marclay, I Will Not Fail, 2020, included in Simon Moretti's Crocodile Cradle, 2021. Courtesy: the artist and White Cube, London

Read to camera by actor Alastair Mackenzie, the performance is a litany of slippery, hypnotic prose that foregrounds the tumult of 2020 in lines such as Nedko Solakov’s: ‘I wish that I – a storyteller of the most absurd fables – could invent a more horrible story than the reality around us.’ Other reflections offer a stark insight into the political present. ‘Social distance unveils social injustice,’ reads Koushna Navabi’s contribution, conjuring the ways in which the pandemic has further stratified society in terms of race, gender and class. Lubaina Himid asks: ‘how do you cry about a crime, not yet touched by the mild boredom of order?’, a question that feels particularly heavy with implication. Elsewhere, we encounter oblique references to unemployment, nationalism and homelessness – narratives of violent acts, whether public or private.

simon moretti crocodile cradle 2021
Simon Moretti, Crocodile Cradle, 2021, installation view at PEER, London. Courtesy: the artist and PEER, London

While the film gives a sense of individual voices cohering around shared, deep-seated feelings of despair, the window display is more disparate: a sea of Mallarméan fragmented text, taken from original script of online performance, grappling with the vicissitudes of what so many have endured. In this iteration, Crocodile Cradle gestures as much to private lives grasped at through the slithers of windows in Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway (1925), as it does to Joseph Kosuth’s text-based conceptual works of the 1960s. With the flexibility of the curatorial presentation lending itself to the current moment, it seems likely we will be seeing more of these multimodal shows, accessible via online platforms and QR codes, in person and in print – exhibitions turned outside.

Simon Moretti's Crocodile Cradle continues at PEER, London, until 18 April 2021.

Main image: Ruth Wolf-Rehfeldt, Far back must go who wants to do a big jump, from the series Wörter (Words), mid 1970s, included in Simon Moretti's Crocodile Cradle, 2021. Courtesy: the artist and ChertLüdde, Berlin

Bryony White is a PhD candidate at King’s College London, where she is writing about performance and the law. In 2019, she was shortlisted for the Fitzcarraldo Editions Essay Prize, and she has written for frieze, LA Review of Books, Artmonthly and the TLS. She co-edits the Tinyletter, close.