Office Baroque Gallery is pleased to present Eleven Years Later, an exhibition of new and existing work by Becky Beasley (1975, United Kingdom).
The exhibition Eleven Years Later brings together five different bodies of work, including a recent series of sculptures referred to as ‘woodworks’ that were drawn from William Faulkner’s novella As I lay Dying (1930). Together the works make up an uncanny environment that engages the viewer in a belated experience at once induced with trauma and humour. Beasley shares a marginal, indirect sense for the grotesque object with artists as diverse as Joe Scanlan and Robert Gober, combined with the monumental approach of photographer Craigie Horsefield.
Becky Beasely’s work moves between sculpture and photography and originates in both personal and more universal encounters. Its subject matter is largely composed of autobiographical recollections mediated through literary references. Aesthetically it engages in a questioning of the relations between hand made objects and their (re)presentation as photographic objects. The language of her practice is at times noir with oneiric, dream state images in a low key sfumato of misty environments but bears equal references to surrealism and minimalism. Beasley’s work deals with death and fear using elements from the visual and the literary realms to allow her to meditate on issues of personal fate and destiny.
A key element in understanding Beasley’s work is the concept of the ‘cadaver’ as articulated by Maurice Blanchot in The two versions of the Imaginary. Through Blanchot’s writing the cadaver is understood by Beasley as a hollow absence which nonetheless resembles itself more than ever. Throughout Beasley’s practice it appears as a play with documenting and presenting constructed or assisted realities as states of loss, or instances of muteness or death. Throughout Beasley’s works the cadaverous appears in numerous guises, not merely as a photographic concept, but also by transferring photographic qualities like gloss, matt or black and white, onto sculptural objects, transforming potentially minimalist objects into postminimal props.
The exhibition is built around a number of larger constructed sculptural studio works and related life size photographic objects. Gloss for example is a photograph of a sculpture titled Upright that was based on a 2/3 scale model of an upright piano (Model: Professional 125A). The Archaeologist and the Road Engineer consists of an oversized pair of wooden wedges. They are installed on the floor like two feet in a slightly open angle and call to mind the figure of the comedian (Chaplin’s penguin walk?). Through its title lurks an absurdist play on the horizontal/vertical axis: the archaeologist is an uncanny figure, digging blindly into the undergrounds past, literally excavating cadavers, the other one is planning the future across its surface. The wedges are perceived as a pair while its title disrupts a unified perception as if each foot wants to go its own way, one down, one ahead suggesting a primitive form of dance. The Gift is made from a highly underexposed negative to produce a silent, mute image of a paper bag. Shown individually the image is titled The Gift, two of them together call for a different title, Dead Air. The latter title was taken from a short story by Heinrich Böll (Murke’s Collected Silences). It features a sound studio engineer who collects discarded audiotape strips of silence (‘dead air’) from the cutting room floor so he can put them together into a long silence to listen to in private. Dead Air is an attempt to create a mute, photographic equivalent for these strips of silence.
The second part of the exhibition is a darker, Lowryesque account of a spelling vertigo. Sleep, Night (2) is a woodwork inspired by the coffin symbol in Faulkner’s novella (where a mother demands that she oversee the construction of her own coffin through a bedroom window). Lying on its back the work inspired by the coffin form resembles a hut, upright the structure resembles a letterbox. The object reappears in three photographs called As I lay Dying (Darkly), As I lay Dying (Room 2) (Edition 1) and As I lay Dying (Room 2)(Edition 2). In its photographic form the object as a repository pertains to the act of confessing personal secrets, fictions and experiences. As much as the series is about isolation and death, its presentation extends into a delirious, solipsist exploration of the mind when complemented with two real size prints of alcohol bottles from the series Les Mélancoliques (Gordon’s and Stolychnaya). The images are printed in reverse so the brand names spell out in a hallucinatory way, incarnating the loss of control and apprehension in the mind of the drinker, more than being a representation of bottles.
Beasley’s work needs to be assessed in a postminimal climate that is defined by the artworks’ desire to achieve the status of a document as a form of ‘present absentness’. Beasley’s project though does not fit in seamlessly with the postminimal program, as her photographic trajectory appears to move about the other way around, attempting to make the document coincide with the artwork. Her work transcends the imperatives of a documentary project altogether, and she uses photography and mimimalist sculpture’s ability to be reproduced or doubled, as an opportunity to produce slightly different versions of reality, shifting meanings in the process of negotiating content through the photographic process of projection and printing. Her work performs an incessant questioning of the relations between images and pictorial representations, in relation to personal stories and those of others and is able to touch upon the complexities surrounding the existence of different versions of the same image. It proposes an uncanny reading of the history of art, of literature and of personal memoirs by making them resonate in the sfumato of her allegorical photographic environment.