Jesse Darling: No Medals, No Ribbons is a hot mess of an exhibition – fragile, chaotic, sometimes beautiful, sometimes uncomfortable. Opening, with awkwardly uncanny timing, just as the world is thrown into a new level of disarray by
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As you move through the exhibition, there’s a sense that you’re on a kind of treasure hunt – the show is full of little surprises, with works tucked away in unexpected corners. This helps to keep things playful and rewards you with little gems of gallows humour, such as Domestic Terror (a burnt tea towel that simultaneously hints at domestic violence, racial stereotypes around terrorism, and the daft, mundane clumsiness behind kitchen accidents). Some of the most touching works are the least obvious: the almost-missed ‘pile of files’ of Epistemologies reminded me of photographs from abandoned buildings, where all the ‘important’ documents and filing systems have been left to rot, and the paperwork trails people leave behind when they die, which no-one knows what to do with. The message seems to be that everything becomes flotsam and rubbish in the end – from prized toys (Princess Horse) to us ourselves. Except, of course, that flotsam and rubbish will often be around for longer – just like the cemetery flowers, dotted throughout the exhibition.
At the centre of No Medals, No Ribbons is a chapel-like space – a dark, intimate room illuminated by a kind of aeroplane electric candle and the glow of a triptych of decaying, scrubbed out windows. I recommend choosing a moment to enter this space when few others are there, as the ‘chapel’ provides a place to reflect on everything else you have seen. Jesse Darling’s work may have the feeling of throwaway odds and sods, cobbled together into janky iconography for our messy age, but it speaks to the deepest elements of human experience, and in all the chaos, it can provide a strange kind of peace.