On the way to new London gallery Union Pacific, there’s a health and wellness centre called Zen Clinic. It’s a title that’s emblematic of the the all-too-familiar contradiction of late-capitalist desire, where the privileged fallacy of ‘self-actualisation’ comes in the cryo-packed quick fix of commodity spiritualism; of body and soul subsumed by industry. It’s an idea that has occupied the minds of gallery founders Grace Schofield and Nigel Dunkley for a while now, the latter of whom explored the Western business model for Eastern metaphysics as part of the N/V_PROJECTS-curated The Fulfillment Centre at the The Sunday Painter earlier this year.
In bringing together the work of artists represented by Union Pacific, as well as those artists’ friends, and those artists’ friends’ friends, for its inaugural exhibition – aptly titled Union – a thematic thread, birthed from the eighth hexagram symbolising ‘holding together’ in the Ancient Chinese I Ching and borne along the Union Pacific railroad enterprise, emerges. Perdo Wirz‘s ‘Dials’ (2014), a rubber hose meant to be used as a pipe of sorts to be shared at the exhibition opening but turning out to be toxic is chained to the outer front window as a means to be taken, only to have the gallery roller-door down, blocking the potential for artefact and appropriator to come into contact.
Adriano Costa‘s simple sculptural addition, a concrete filled bottle with its plastic promise of ‘Little Miracles’ (2014) weighs down a pillow’s soft center, while Yves Scherer‘s tantalisingly jarring baby blue Tatami mat and perspex in the wall mounted ‘Sirens (Sauereien)’ (2014) glares across and down at Olga Balema‘s ‘Untitled’ (2014) fountain. Steel beams engraved with fragments of cryptic diary entries rust under a stream of water splashing indiscriminately out of its bucket and onto the gallery floor. Companion piece ‘Untitled (shaky blood stone)’ (2014) looks across from a corner; a motorised piece of red and hardened epoxy glue shivering in the chiseled niche of a solid granite block.
This is all a fairly familiar feeling of hybrid cross-cultural and corporate tropes drowning out any sense of individuality. Downstairs and in the dark Julie Born Schwartz‘s subjects in the ‘Love has no reason’ (2014) video literally embody this commonality by becoming transformed by the masks made from images of other people. Jan Kiefer‘s ‘Base: biz fed ecb’ (2014) sculpture nearby features a miniature model of the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, lovingly engraved into copper beech wood and topped with a traditionally made cone-shaped candle by Matthias Huber.
Back upstairs Max Ruf‘s ‘The monuments proved visible in the morning’ (2014) looms in three panels of paintings of corporate logos rendered unrecognisable in its abstract landscape that’s less location and more time and motion. Aude Pariset‘s inner anxiety of being a house guest is externalised in the woozy movement of an inkjet print on dry and cracking rice paper for ‘Bedroom Posters (To Leave)’ (2014). The gallery guestbook suspended beside it evokes Constant Dullaart’s thoughts on the ‘consumer experience’ of 21st-century travel: “hitching a ride is Uber, hospitality is Airbnb, and when you are interested, you are a follower”.
Another Kiefer screens a looping slideshow of brands and popular icons from a macbook. These are handpainted with black acrylic, then digitised and reconfigured into a childish stream of animal cartoons rendered familiar via repetition and reminding its audience: the religion’s in the ritual. **
Exhibition photos, top right.