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Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller

The House Of Books Has No Windows: new exhibition presenting 7 installations by the artists.
Modern Art Oxford, Wed October 15th - Sun January 18th 2009
Finally, something at MAO that sustains time spent and repeated viewing - this is a show (in all senses of that word) that is utterly captivating from the outset.

The atmosphere it creates is so seasonal – somehow, it really does feel pitched for the time of Halloween and Bonfire Night. The art (music, physical noise, lights, choreography, robotics) is steeped in gothic story-telling, film noir, and bewitching mystery. This is certainly something to drag non-art-goers to.

This exhibition, by Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller, truly fulfils the potential of multi-media art. What this pair of artists brilliantly achieve is to provide a narrative and theatrical presentation that bridges the art/public divide that is so often broken for lack of anything to actually enjoy.

In other words – they have done most of the work in delivering something that melds the thrill of the fairground with work so rich in associations that it will trigger memory, sensation and thought for the viewer. Something instantly appealing that also remains fugitive in its density and strangeness.
There are so many enchanting tricks and illusions deployed – and their ingenious devices yield something profound; more than mere gimmickry. Ghosts in the machine seems the overriding theme. Invoked memories of people long-dead, the melancholy inherent in the fusty spines of old books, the entropy of technology. Throughout, they feature “information objects” that are defunct, yet they are re-animated - they crackle with a haunted energy.

This is a true kind of spiritual art and sometimes it gets creepy. They do not shy away from sensationalism. While some critics will sneer at their over-theatricality, their obsession for nostalgia, the sci-fi quality, I think this is precisely where their strength lies.

It seems to summon everything from Shelley, Kafka, Beckett, to Wells, B Movies, and more recently the art-directed brilliance of computer games such as Bioshock. Sonically, it plays aural tricks to match the best Pink Floyd moments, only here they are physically sited to match what is in front of you. Audiophiles will love this!

Some will enjoy the many literary and cinematic references. Others might be more intrigued and amazed by the robotics and computer-driven choreography. However, this technical complexity will remain invisible for the incurious, such is the spell the various environments cast on the viewer.

This exhibition achieves popular appeal without eschewing sophisticated ideas. See it as soon as you can.
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