October 11, 2005
Tuesday to Saturday 10am - 5pm, Sunday 12pm - 5pm.Angela Bulloch's functional sculptures play with the ways in which we interpret different types of information. Her work appears simplistic (sound chairs gained her a Turner Prize nomination in 1997) but the ideas behind the pieces are complex. In one visit to Modern Art Oxford to visit her first major retrospective I feel I have only just scratched the surface.
The ‘Rules series' (1993-ongoing) looks at the social structures that influence our behaviour with a table displaying actual regulations for different situations as diverse as smuggling, bungee-jumping and stripping. The text pieces, for example for the 'Babydoll saloon' topless lounge that states ‘If you take drugs try not to bring them to work with you', take on a new meaning out of their original context.
This exhibition draws on the themes of translation, encoding and systems of perception and to this end Bulloch shows us there are a number of ways to see an image for example by reducing it to a blur. To achieve this Bulloch has developed the pixel box (a contraction of ‘picture element') which appears to the viewer as a box of light, capable of generating 16 million colour permutations. Software enables the pixel box to project abstract colour sequences by encoding cinematic media. This is used in ‘Fundamental Discord: 16' (2005) where a 4 x 4 grid of pixel boxes faces the viewer. Changing colour sequences are generated by pixel boxes encoding Akira Kurosawa's 1985 film ‘Ran'. This work is mesmerising and creates a tranquil mood.
Cinematic narrative is a strand that runs through Bulloch's work. Early work, such as ‘Solaris' (1993), consists of 4 giant white light bulbs switching on and off seemingly at random opposite a screen showing a B movie thriller. 'King of Comedy' (1991) invites you to be just that as you stand in front of a slide of an audience exploding with laughter. In more recent work, ‘Z Point' (2001), Bulloch transforms the explosion scene from 1970's film ‘Zabriskie Point' to make what is arguably the most absorbing piece in the exhibition. Desert landscape colours flicker across a large wall of pixel boxes stacked (8 by 6) at the rate of one image per second. Colours change to a dramatic sound track composed by David Grubbs that ends in a haunting guitar riff.
Ending the show in the Back Gallery where Bulloch has chosen red, green and blue for four sculptures designed to change the viewer's perceptual conditions; 'RGB Spheres III and IV' (2005) are delightful combinations of oversized coloured lightbulbs fading up and down. These are mounted onto parallel walls so the viewer is totally immersed in subtly pyschadelic lights, the effect is positively disorientating! Two works have a similar title, ‘RGB Rhythm Box: So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n Roll Star' (2005) where one pixel box is set to pulse refracted coloured light to the beat of a Patti Smith track and the other to a track by The Byrds. The changing light formations projected on the white wall draw you in and it feels like the very best kind of party; it is hard to leave, but chilled to the gills, you are already looking forward to coming back.