Grace Bryant: Time After Time and Identity

English student Grace Bryant writes about the theme of identity within the exhibition Time After Time, only the second to be shown within John Hansard Gallery’s new and improved setting.

The Time After Time exhibition, located in the new John Hansard Gallery space directly in the Southampton city centre, offers a look back at commissioned installations of the previous University of Southampton’s campus based gallery. The large glass panes that cover the front of this new location allow the bustling Southampton population to look up, to see works of art displayed in the heart of the city, to connect with the history this exhibition provides.

The large orange lettering of Caroline Bergvall’s CROP (2010) against the stark white walls can be seen, alongside those viewing her piece, from the street below. From the outset this installation demands focus, decoding, and the viewer’s time. Upon first walking into the room that this installation is placed in, you are hit with a sense of confusion and sensory bombardment. The bright light, helped by the floor to ceiling windows, the fluorescent orange words that seem indecipherable, and the loud voice that is speaking in a broken and jarring manner overwhelm. CROP forces us to stand within the chaos and begin to understand. The writing seems confusing because of the different languages it is written in and the missing ‘o’s, but as the viewer begins to adjust we can begin to read. The disconnect between the visual and aural assault first is reflected in the words about a disconnect from the body; we read of a search for identity within ourselves as we search for identity within the piece. As we begin to understand the singular we can allow the collision of all the elements again, and experience the emotion felt on entering the space with a new deeper understanding of CROP.

Vierkantrohre Serie DW (1967-2010) also deals with identity. Posenenske’s installation is made of a series of cardboard sheets and plastic fasteners, a seemingly inconspicuous material placed at the forefront of this installation. The cardboard encourages links with temporality, fragility and liminal spaces, a coming or going as life is packed up and whilst the decisions behind the idea of movement displayed are set out openly to be looked at and considered. The childish and childlike tunnel displayed creates a desire to return to a younger state, to crawl instinctually through the fragile creation, looking upon this often discarded material with wonder at what can be created with it. When the other structure in this installation is observed the idea of identity seems to change. Tall and unwavering we contrast the upright position of the tower itself, and our bodies that walk around it, to the low and grounded structure of the tunnel. When we learn that this piece is made to be disassembled and reassembled in different ways for different spaces the theme of identity takes an even larger role. By giving up some of the creative control, the artist allows other identities to be placed on their work, an identity that in temporal and fragile as the material the installation is made of. The identity that weaves itself into the wide range of pieces within this exhibition matches the search for identity within this new gallery space and location. It also makes us look inwards as we search for our own identity while we move from place to place.

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