Friday, April 2, 2010
I recently wrote an introduction for the catalogue to accompany an exhibition of Guy Gormely. The exhibition is called Vehicles on show at the Son Gallery in south London. It features Gormely's work 'Cars' and Tim Smyth's project the 'Nature of Machines'. I unashamedly appropriated the title from William Burroughs.
Guy Gormely’s photographs are about the total presence of the car and any characteristics unique to this object on which we project our human perceptions. This anthropomorphic stance signals the car as a brooding presence, quietly thinking, like Hitchcock’s Birds ready to take over the world but in the most undramatic way. These cars are guilty as hell but they don’t care. Perhaps they have played host to intoxicated fumbling in lay-by’s, 35mph in a built up area, most certainly they have been flashed or issued a ticket. Gormely’s deadpan pictures could almost sit comfortably on the pages of Auto Trader be it not for an authorial clout. More than mere documents these unlikely, ‘one careful lady owner’ vehicles, consign the car to something ‘other.’
Aside from car mechanics we forget what a car is. Everything about this vehicle is designed to desensitise the horrifying reality that we are hurtling across landscapes in combustible metal forms at terrifying speeds, a mere knee jerk away from total disaster. The soft interior is the grey matter of the car. This is the fragile bit, the container of decisions. Dreams are dreamt in this beige grey interior looking out on to the cinematic world. It is here that we inhale the artificial stench of Magic Tree as Epping Forest blurs past. In this sculpted form is to be found the trace of former occupants, bits of Lego, a sticky two pence, a frayed page 83 of west Norfolk hiding down the back of cracked leather look seats, a scuffed ceiling after a visit to Ikea, a receipt for Tesco, a chewed pen top under the drivers seat.
The French surrealist, George Bataille once remarked that ‘no collector could ever love a work of art as much as a fetishist loves a shoe’. Or a car for that matter. The cars reality is open to projection. We are sold freedom but Gormely shows the drab object of neutral colours and the generic patterns of a Gap world. Only JG Ballard could see the potential for the sexualisation of the Ford Mondeo rust bucket hot from the suburbs, ejaculating its leaking oil and limply spewing water onto the windscreen, dotted with dead bugs, smudging obscurity all over the vision of the drivers side as it penetrates the Dartford Tunnel.
In the simplest of ways Gormley is showing us an absurdity. We all know the bigger picture about what these ego extensions are doing to the environment and the casualty department. The context is clear, so lets return to the thing itself without the glossy diversions that condition our attention span when we should be looking ahead.