Beginning, middle & end

12 March - 23 April 2005

Jenna Collins
Jenna Collins

Every narrative moves from its beginning to a middle and a conclusive end. Usually. The artists in this show offer narratives that are far from complete, in which we are unsure at what point we have entered the story’s timeline, beginning, middle or end.

On the ground floor and throughout the stairwells, Matthew Richardson’s groupings of objects and gestures imply associations or meanings, through their very particular choice and arrangement. Through their juxtapositions Richardson makes, the significance of one object is altered by another. The Statue of Liberty is dwarfed by a human hair (or the hair is made giant by the statue); an arbitrary date in the future becomes significant by our personal reading of, or association with it. There is significance to the found objects he uses, as well as an element of chance. Each object has been removed from its role in everyday life at a precise moment of incidence. The scratches and scuffs of wear and tear are preserved as a testament to the objects’ other lives, outside of the art institution. Richardson has applied this to the gallery itself, where his preservation of a scorched wall betrays the scene of a fire. Once the show finishes, the works revert to their everyday use. The owl’s perch becomes a functional broom in the artist’s kitchen; the scorched wall becomes an anonymous blank space once again.

On the first floor, Karla Williams’ series of video tableaux, Anti Chambers, is the epilogue to a series of domestic episodes, a glimpse of something unseen that has just taken place moments before. We can only guess what has led to these deserted scenes. Perhaps the swinging light and door chain denotes someone’s departure. Could the wheelchair have been tipped accidentally or deliberately? Each vignette is set in a different hallway, For Williams, these epitomise a non-space or synapse between public-private, and fact-fiction; a space where undisclosed captivation is met with potential autonomy. The scenes play out before us but we never see the protagonists or understand what has gone before.

In Certain Private Conversations, Jenna Collins strips the narrative even more extremely. The piece presents a reading of stage directions from the play Death of A Salesman, delivered by a professional actor in a Manchester newsagents. Arthur Miller’s play is a tale of a man unable to reconcile the reality of his mediocre life in late 1940s America with the post-war capitalist American dream. Crucially lacking any dialogue, the play is rendered a barely recognisable abstraction. Initially, the actor gives the most prominent performance, but soon the severely abbreviated text, noisy machinery and shop staff unwittingly upstage him in turn. By presenting a fragmented story in the newsagents, a location with its own inherent narratives, Collins recklessly leaves the viewer to create a third narrative from the events.

These are partial stories, incomplete sentences that require us to fill in the missing words, allowing us to speculate on what has already passed or is yet to come. Together the works in this exhibition disrupt the straight line of the narrative, presenting observations and fabrications that form beginnings, middles and ends, but not necessarily in that order.

  • Jenna Collins
  • Karla Williams
  • Matthew Richardson
  • Matthew Richardson