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Robert Orchardson & Sarah Tripp, installation view, 2007

This intimate joint show has produced an installation dealing in narratives and their contexts, paradigms and epiphanies. It’s a show that takes on big themes but allows the needle of kitsch to hover in case the bubble should grow too weighty.

The first room is simply lit and contains four pieces alluding to cosmic themes. The narrative arc begins far out in space with an group of works that recalls the set design for Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and Tarkovsky’s Solaris as much as it does the theosophically influenced and universal forms of Kandinsky’s ‘On White II’. Titles such as ‘Nova’, ‘Zenith’ and ‘Black Air’ allude to enormous star-based explosions, the measurement of cosmic distances and conceptual quantum theories respectively. The narrative intention begins to crystalise with a piece entitled ‘Vitreous Mountain’, which moves from ideas of the universe to a symbol normally associated with permanence re-contextualised here in the enormity of space-time as a mere minute.

The second room is dark, lit only by a piece titled ‘Pendant’. A hanging lamp built by Orchardson from bronze and spray paint that resembles fall-out from the set of Barbarella. ‘Pendant’ hangs above, and lights a sculptural seating area named ‘Mobius Seating’, the name alluding to the mathematical concept of the Mobius Strip, a surface with only one side and one boundary component. The piece has been constructed as a framing device, as indeed the whole show might be considered, for Sarah Tripp’s dramatically earth bound artist’s book, The Best Mistake . This publication, made specially to accompany the exhibition, is a series of photographs, short stories and yearning digressions that deal in the frailty of human consciousness, misunderstandings and spiritual trip-ups. And it is here that the show takes on a surprising poignancy after the enjoyable but light sci-fi comedy of the first room. Human concerns are now framed in relation to the universe and existential questions relating to the significance of the ‘human project’ begin to suggest themselves.

The dialogue works both ways here, with Tripp’s testament to the personal influencing our take on what has come before. Sitting in the darkness under a single light, reading Tripp’s little book, images from the cultural memory bank begin to emerge—clunking Soviet shuttles, grainy shots of the moon’s surface, the loneliness of that sepia film. The description of a child from a broken home experiencing a flood as an almost biblical event becomes both moving and absurd. A dream vignette about a lover and a failure of memory is rendered tragic. The Manichean debate of science and art is almost resolved. Recited amongst the ruins of a 1960s sci-fi set, the history of science is a poem to man’s longing

John Millar is a writer