Iván Argote‘s solo show at London’s Space Gallery is called An Idea of Progress and it is centred around the construction site.
Immediately Argote asks us to think about the word construction. A construction site is a place where building work is happening, where what is old is demolished and where what is new will replace it, on an incredibly public –yet slightly behind closed hoardings –stage or setting.
Argote has made one of these stages to cover the entire facade of Space, as though what is imaged on the front is happening underneath and will be soon made manifest, revealed, presented, given to the onlookers who walk past. It is charmingly and quickly –although not without its neatness –strapped to Space’s face with big cable ties. What the facade promises is “AN IDEA OF PROGRESS” as well as, by the way, “THE FUTURE’S FUTURE IS UNDER PROGRESS” and an image that is part front-facing and part rendered with aerial perspective of what is best described as a Centre Parcs complex on drugs.
Inside the future and the promise of progress, are several other pieces by Argote, installed and hung around the white space. With a plant in the corner, simply potted in a terracotta base and still tied together at the stems with some rocks thrown in, and a couple of elegant screens lowered in with a metal pole, the place could be a showroom.
In the documentation images, the screens look like they are hosting perfectly still moments –or stills –rather than videos. Together and collectively, the three screens make up the following: image of a person moving captured in the middle of road works in front of a sign pointing towards London City Airport. An image of two floors, filmed by a camera that is very near to the ground. An image of the legs of what appears to be a giant person walking down the street fast, past a fake and tiny flat row of doors and shopfronts like ‘Hy Tek’.
This one is maybe the most sad because Hy Tek is definitely empty. It’s clear, according to Argote’s aesthetic decision: the shopfronts and front doors are very drawn, and quite uniformly purply brown.
Another empty building in the show is in a print hung on the wall. Two men in suits are walking past a tall lonely building. One of them is carrying a briefcase and is speaking to the other with a reassuring grin, as though he’s showing him something he wants him to like: “Actually that one’s not empty, we keep our profits in it”. Their figures have got brick pattern all over them, or they are imprinted in bricks, or –however you want to say it: they are the buildings.
Aesthetic promise on the surface only, showroom interiors and strategies: Iván Argote doubly manages and juggles both contemporary art and urban regeneration in their dynamic and vital relationship to (ideas of) progress.**