BY Andrew Gellatly in Reviews | 07 JUN 00
Featured in
Issue 53

Claire Barclay

BY Andrew Gellatly in Reviews | 07 JUN 00

Six copies of Wallpaper magazine (No.26) have been restrained and battened to a wall through their spines in a way that resembles a locked-down reading room. Their pages have been perforated and paper-punched to resemble seaweed fronds but still it's an Eastertime crucifixion, and a reminder that some pretty strong environmental feelings are at work. Wallpaper's working title has always been 'the stuff that surrounds you' and so has Barclays.

Facing the Wallpapers, on the other side of the space there's a leather -wrapped stick, instantly recognisable to fans of Barclay's work in the 1997 Glascow CCA exhibition 'Out of the Woods' which featured a pink-wrapped tree trunk. It begins with each knot and nodal joint wrapped tightly restrained and stitched-in, but further down the branch the leather breaks into a fringed and scalloped sort of decorative covering, a release from bondage into ornamentation. But the real action of the front space is a hymn to geometry and metalworking, where a section of a aluminium rod the colour of foils's dull side, lies stranded like a sectioned tree trunk on a small black cow hide. Three vectored branches sprout from the trunk, each milled and grafted very precisely in at its root.

The parts are like the picking list for an N55 house or table, and that's one part of Barclay's very precise fetish, but then there is the geometry that sort of evokes and catharts our real relationship to rooms. There are six anodised aluminium rods with pointed stainless javelin tips bent into tight curves under the ceiling, and scratch marks on the paint witness the tightness of the fit. This isn't endangering the gallery like Chris Burden's Hercules, just sort of tweaking it, picking at it. But the compression and the bending loads involved sort of weigh on the visitor's perceptions and, well, you start to have a very involved relationship to the Showroom's space. Like that part in Proust where the kid describes his geometrical relationship to the church spire in Combray, and the way the pallid sky seems to hollow itself out to make room. The second part of Barclays installation is a back-room shelter or den that throws an orange glow from the triangular backspace of the gallery on a day with any sort of daylight worth speaking about. But dens have become sort of commonplace as TV rooms and hang-outs, so this den revalues the feral nature of the hang-out space. On the floor is a big soil- smeared cushion, which, pre-smearing, was just about the colour of Kaopectate, and an extrusive pile of dirt that has been shaped with two homunculus-style forms.

The orange glow is created by a stretched canopy of orange rip-stop nylon, a spinnaker colour intermittently popular in sailing circles, referencing the yacht art of Californians like Jorge Prado maybe. But this sail, for all its tension, has decorative scalloped edges along one tape, and funnels back down the space creating a cave.

Above the orange cloth is a hollowed-out shiny space of falling skylight dust, below it is an ambiguous cross-species habitat. On the wall are two photographs of empty animal enclosures at London zoo, one from the insect house, (which is a fairly easy guess given the painted wall twigs and the savannah-ish feel,). The other is a grimy cage in the process of changing residents, but you'd have to guess at small temperate region mammals.

At least the photos make them seem like they're unoccupied ,but, like the cages that you wait infront of unsure about whether the real live animal act is just about to break cover and reveal itself, you wait some more just in case you missed an twitching stick insect or something. One of the best known photographs of Claire Barclay shows her on a sunny hillside with a wolf, a nice faked-up Beuysian twist, and revealing of her concerns about our appropriation of natural environments. But if our own apartment dogs feel any embarrassment about being failed, de-natured wolves, they have the consolation that the rewards of being a successful parasite species, seduced by comfort, you get to watch a lot of TV.