Thursday, July 29, 2010

'O Land of Our Birth - Cultural Identity within a Global Age'

''I regrettably missed the ‘opening night’ of ‘O Land of Our Birth’… ‘’

This is what I imagined myself saying as I optimistically made my way towards the current exhibition at the Sayle Gallery. I came away, however, torn between thinking that I did in fact not miss anything at all, or that whatever I did miss; I am glad I did. I understand it involved some kind of ‘performance spectacle’, and can only envisage more garish Manx tartan, an amateur dramatics production, and Celtic music fused with MC Hammer and Flashdance. Or some other irrelevant, immature display in attempts to embody the accompanying exhibition that remains.

Dimly lit, with claims of offering a juxtaposition of (Manx) heritage and popular culture; pieces include Celtic designs of corporate logos (that according to the written accompaniment we ‘consume’ on a regular basis) such as Nike, Chanel, Mercedes, and Playboy. The most affecting works are cross-stitched lyrics, combining quaintness and intrusion – the permeation of the media into the lives of everyone; young or old. ‘Smack My Bitch Up’ may widen certain eyes, but we can thank The Prodigy their lyrical prowess, (likewise Britney, Beyonce…) the medium used adds very little; a vague attempt at inciting a reaction from the suggestive stark contrast of modern affront and apparent naivety of times-gone-by. Two obscure photos appear to be an attempt at demonstrating a growing link between youth and sexuality, but are poorly conceived, reveal little and provoke nothing.

The ‘installation’; a close-up video of lips with Manx tartan lipstick design goes through an irritating assembly of nursery rhymes, Gaelic verse and again, the familiar ‘controversial’ lyrics about sex and so forth. As one guest noted, it does nothing more than get even more annoying when trying to view other pieces in the gallery.

The exhibition literature is littered with assertions of juxtaposition, perspective, popular culture, and identity. Unfortunately it falls short of addressing such issues. Granted, there is a suggestive union in almost all the works on display, but in no work here asks anything of the viewer in terms considering the individual or collective identity, or revealing some unknown perspective on the combination of popular culture and heritage.

The photos could be ignored, the installation is tiresome, the logos reminiscent of a high school art project, and the cross-stitch is linear and obvious. One final piece follows the trend, children’s stories, cartoon characters, smutty song lyrics; mildly amusing, nothing more. I noticed it on my way out of the darkened area to look at some art that was illuminating in more ways than one.

Thankfully on leaving I realized I had saved up enough stubs for a free coffee on my way back to work, thus meaning my lunch hour was not a complete waste.

'O Land of Our Birth - Cultural Identity within a Global Age' is on display at The Sayle Gallery, Villa Marina Colonnade, 1-3 Harris Promenade, Douglas, Isle of Man until August 8th.

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