more of an avalanche, Wysing Arts Centre

more of an avalanche is a group show running at the Wysing Arts Centre, Cambridge until 8 April 2018.

Developed from events held at Wysing in the preceding year on the theme of Polyphonic, the show does indeed include many voices.   So many in fact shown both in the gallery and the screening room, that it is demanding for visitors to give due consideration to all the works in one visit.  There is however no denying the unifying thread holding the show together, cutting through the undertones and emphases explored in the varied works.  The disparaging term ‘snowflake’, much beloved of the right, is the hook on which the exhibition is built.  Helen Cammock’s seemingly modest lino-cuts best encapsulates the show in its entirety.

Helen Cammock, Untitled (Over-sentive and De-sensitised) 2015

Helen Cammock, Untitled (Over-sentive and De-sensitised) 2015

Divide and Rule Never (1978) and True Romance Etc (1982) by Isaac Julien and The Newsreel Collective anchor the premise of the exhibition in historical context, reminding visitors of the longstanding use of insults to make light of the protests of (largely) left wing dissenters. 

In contrast, further into the gallery, more recent works signpost the contemporary belief in the power of numbers, as evidenced by the #metoo campaign, alongside the emergence of an optimistic willingness to embrace differences and to accommodate the other.

 In the first photograph of Adopting a Father (2015-) the human figure is absent:  the image shows a stripy top forlornly draped over an empty chair.  The remaining 25 photographs are displayed as a grid and all include the artist and at least one other person. 

Ilker Cinarel, Adopting a Father (2015-)

Ilker Cinarel, Adopting a Father (2015-)

Throughout his practice, Ilker Cinarel has explored the themes of men and masculinity. In the same year in which he began Adopting a Father, Cinaral produced Closer (2015) in which he reimagined a new relationship with his father.   In the piece showing at Wysing, Cinarel also (re)constructs his past.  Using painful memories as a stimulus for creativity, he stages (re)presentations of archetypal father and son love.  In response to adverts placed in his local area for a temporary father, the artist invited respondents to a photo shoot.  Cinarel and the strangers were photographed in a simulated photographic studio.  This is a conceptual photographic work in which the outcome was unknown.

The formality of the setting highlights the varied emotional responses.  Some participants appear relaxed, others uncomfortable and tense.  The work appears to question not only the nature of the father and son relationship but also to highlight the plastic role of the father figure and the fluid character of the concept of family.  Physical contact, the gaze (between people and between people and the camera) and the absence/presence of love are all questioned.

Without the interactive elements and social media campaign which ran  alongside the making of the work, the viewer now is required to draw more deeply into their personal experience of the parent-child relationship and is invited to reflect on the making of new memories.

As with many good exhibitions, more of an avalanche is a show that leaves visitors with more questions than it answers and with more questions than they arrived with.