Summertime, and the fish aren’t jumping, but seem to be walking on land in Katinka Bock’s industrial-domestic intervention. The Paris-based German artist’s first UK show of sculptural works finds her raw materials dragged indoors after seemingly been left out in the rain to rust. One of several solid bronze flat-fish interspersed throughout looks more like a weather-beaten rat. If you enjoy imagining dystopia, it might well be the sort of mutant that swam to earth from polluted inner-city river-scapes and crawled through rubbish dumps, wheezing its way on to terra firma in a twisted, post-industrial take on evolution.
Bock’s show is named after the real life radio station serving the Tuscan town of Piombino, a port which served as a naval base, but has more latterly been used to carry freight as well as a marina. Almost certainly not twinned with Glasgow, Bock nevertheless uses the city’s history as a port for her show, as well as the Common Guild’s past as a trendy west end des-res with a view to die for. In this way, Bock has docked in a harbour where ship-building and the grounded hulks that go with it are rendered all but obsolete, as creatures who once gathered there now wander the land on the edge of extinction—or else stay indoors.
This may be why pebbledash is laid out on the floor of the hallway, and why pipes are run through walls upstairs. It’s as if the house is in the midst of some ongoing Sisyphean conversion, made an attractive prospect by the way the light falls onto copper, bronze and steel at a particular time of day or night, plugged in to history, but forever changing, always out of reach.
It’s telling that Bock’s only other UK project was a show with Siobhan Davies Dance in London performed in 2017; the central construction in the upstairs gallery—in which pieces of ceramic tubing are hung by copper pipes over distressed tiles where one of the ratty walking fishes is placed—resembles a stage set. The narrative contained within it is one of times and places in motion, of houses and cities, and of ports and storms where things have learnt to walk that ought to crawl.
Radio Piombino. Katinka Bock. The Common Guild 20 April - 8 July
At first glance, the centre-piece of the white room that houses Corin Sworn’s new environmental intervention looks like a large circular mirror in the middle of the wall. It resembles the sort of retro conceit usually found in commercial faux-hipster lounges. Step inside, luv, and it’s actually a rough-hewn hole, the remnants of a cartoon bank heist or what’s left of a bull’s visit to a very white china shop. On a screen opposite, There is ‘Movement’ (2018), a video of the room playing on loop. Keeping a CCTV-style distance as the round hole is cut out to create a window on the room next door, the video reveals an open-plan potential wonderland in which kids climb through the hole, while three dancers roll and tumble.
Once over the threshold, it takes a moment to spot the security camera, the oh-so-discreet, blend-into-the-background all-seeing-eye, here called a cheery ‘Hello!’ (2018). It’s a word that’s become more than mere greeting, now loaded by association with the smile-for-the-camera airbrushed gloss of celebrity weddings forged in reality TV.
Soap dispensers mounted on the walls serve up exotically-scented hand gels. Towel racks contain pages ripped from subverted Ladybird books, themselves the sort of post-modern gags that seemingly put two fingers up to the original nostalgic idylls while actually confirming them. Over a percussive soundtrack that accompanies the video, a soothing American female voice offers self-help platitudes to get you through.
Social control comes in small ways, it seems, in a place where work, rest and play are watched over with benign countenance, as random acts by visitors are captured on film for future reference. Through such flawed edifices of surveillance culture, the contradictions of the home-office-interface are laid bare in all their squeaky-clean apparel. Now wash your hands.
Corin Sworn. Koppe Aster. 20 April - 26 May
If revolution is a carnival for the people that begins at closing time (lock-in permitting), being stuck in an endless cycle of rhetoric-heavy rabble-rousing meetings can bleed the barricade-hopping romance out of rebellion to bollock-shrivelling numbness. Time, then, to throw in an arsenal of slow-burning grenades to lighten things up as samizdat as you like, subverting from within using doodles in the margins of official documents to create other republics.
This is what Glasgow-born artist Scott Caruth found when he went rummaging through the archive of the Italian Communist Party (PCI) in Modena, Northern Italy. Forged out of a leftist schism in 1921 and led by Antonio Gramsci, outlawed during fascist rule, and once the largest communist party in the western world, the PCI ended as it began in 1991: with a split.
Somewhere in the midst of all this, manifestos, minutes of meetings and other PCI documents were scrawled on by bored party members taking advantage of what was possibly an institutional monopoly on paper. Reappropriated here both on the walls of the House for an Art Lover’s project space and in a zine-like publication, the unknown artists of the PCI are recast as avant-gardists of the everyday.
Cartoon Neanderthals with clubs give chase in an image that resembles the satirical swish of proper comic-strip auteurs Jules Feiffer or Sergio Aragones, empty speech bubbles hovering above them like clouds. On the back wall, a pair of bent-over arses face away from each other, a lit fuse in one looking dangerously close to letting rip. Such friezes farting out silent-but-deadly metaphorical raspberries before any implied explosion occurs recalls the agit-prop pratfalls and revolutionary clowning of Dario Fo, the Italian theatrical and political provocateur.
Some of these images appear in the publication alongside typed-out transcripts from a meeting of some ideological import. On the other side of the paper, bringing things up to date and close to home, a recent work-related email sees Caruth attempt to inquire why he has been sacked for merely suggesting better pay and conditions. The struggle, it seems, goes on.
On a windy day, alas, sometimes the exposed project space shelves—in which copies of Caruth’s A5 opus are housed—prove too flimsy for a breeze that causes them to be scattered like campaign leaflets dropped from on high. If the answer is blowing in the wind like this, such intimations of liberation looks destined to remain on the margins, probably talking Italian.
Cazzate Zu Cazzate (Bullshit On Bullshit). Scott Caruth. Project space, House for an Art Lover. 20 April - 7 May
Neil Cooper is a writer and critic