BY Alex Farquharson in Reviews | 06 JUN 99
Featured in
Issue 47


BY Alex Farquharson in Reviews | 06 JUN 99

Sylvie Fleury is given disproportionate space in this exhibition devoted to fashion and the rapidity of stylistic turnover. 'Life Can Be Heavy, Mascara Shouldn't' declares a text which runs the length of a turquoise wall. 'Be Amazing!' is spelt out in chrome italics on another, like Lawrence Weiner at Melrose Place. Actually it's Fleury's four cross-dressed Flame Paintings (1998) I liked best. Their butch hot rod motif has been painted in delicious purplish hues of nail varnish over grounds made of various shades of foundation. Here the fashion industry has already done the formal work of the paintings, while the actual handiwork comes courtesy of a car customiser.

Also in the ground floor space are Ako Sasao's Cool Britannia (1998) a hierarchy of dolls in Kimonos portraying various (mostly) ephemeral London celebrities - Liam, Patsy, Noel, Geri et al - on a stepped plinth in the manner of a royal Japanese household. At the show's opening, a barrage of flashguns created an effect of celebrity. Freddy Contreras' Paparazzi (1998) consists of a stepladder with flash guns on each rung activated by visitors treading on a series of pressure mats. Again, the pleasure to be had is instantaneous and the meaning bite-sized. A steady throb of low level House music suffuses the space.

Hilary Lloyd's D.J. Sculpture (1997) comprises a sound system with two monitors each showing a vinyl guru practicing on his decks. Isolated like a throne in the Arctic expanse of the gallery the DJ's activity looks as dull as serving a prison sentence. Lloyd's other piece upstairs is similarly deadpan. A carrousel loaded with snapshot slides, Princess Julia (1997) tracks the every movement of the regal DJ Princess Julia, from getting ready at home to completing her club set. Benignly voyeuristic, the piece has the devotional feel of a fresco cycle of the life of a saint. Another lo-fi work in the show is the only site-specific one. The two glass doors at the entrance to the Arnolfini make a small cell in which we hear disembodied touts offering to sell or buy concert tickets. Jeremy Deller re-locates the voices of the parasites from the periphery of the celebrity spectacle (in this case an Anthrax gig), to the threshold of 'Accelerator'.

The exhibition is at its weakest around the walls of the upstairs gallery with Suzy Spence's feeble faux-naive paintings of American B-grade actor Tori Spelling in Barbie-like settings; a pair of jeans by Regina Möller accompanied by a gnomic text on the social significance of patches on denims; and a single, blurry photograph of a young, slim, attractive woman in what may be a multi-story car park at night. About the latter we are informed that Klaar van der Lippe's 'images undermine fashion photography clichés and challenge the pressures placed upon women to conform to the airbrushed ideal of bodily perfection, and the invisibility of the older woman'. Right.

Karen Kilimnik conjures up the bedroom realm of the daydreaming teenager more successfully than Spence in her wispy Rococo drawings of, and love-struck poems to, Leonardo Di Caprio, Claudia Schiffer, Omar Sharif and others. In contrast, Graham Dolphin's fashion and lifestyle magazines on plinths have been carefully and cruelly mutilated with PVA glue, staples, nails, a drill, paintstripper, etc. Dolphin's bizarre transformations evoke a deranged and bewildered dad performing acts of vengeance on the alienating worlds of his partner and offspring. Unexpected sculptural poetry emerges from this encounter between fashion and home improvement.

Only The Bernadette Corporation's untitled and un-dated presentational video narrating the story of a fashion house really gets under the skin of the media industry. Colliding absurdist intellectualising with inane signs of corporate power, the work's terms of reference wildly fall apart. A Boss Hog-type drawls on about 'ideological submersion' and 'grafting paradoxical significations on anything, anything at all' between creepy jingle renditions of 'Anarchy in the UK' and futuristic 3D logos sailing through a sky of glistening office blocks.

Otherwise Michael Bevilacqua's busy, flat, literal paintings of logo stickers most closely follow the show's curatorial approach. Suggesting the whole issue of fashion and style, and its relationship to art practice, is 'unframeable', the accompanying catalogue foregoes analytical essays in favour of a scrapbook of miscellaneous, semi-familiar quotes on the theme. While there are interesting works in the show, many, like the enterprise itself, are satisfied with whimsically and sardonically echoing creative energies to be found elsewhere. 'Accelerator' remains uncertain whether it's paying homage to or subverting its references, or articulating the distance between itself and other visual professions.