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Absolute Bearing | LD50

This Spring, LD50 gallery opened in London’s Dalston area with its first show, entitled Absolute Bearing. It features the work of British sculptor/writer Jesse Darling and artist-duo Brace Brace (consisting of Christopher Kulendran Thomas and Annika Kuhlmann). ‘Bearing’ carries a multiplicity of meanings and association, all loosely indicative of direction and movement, relative to a fixed point.. The show explores themes of extinction and loss through the prism of naval navigation, as indicated by the show’s press release image, a digitally rendered image of a dark and gloomy sea.

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Taking the form of an advertisement, Brace Brace’s video installation, Promotional Video for Life Ring, is presented in a quintessential showroom space, selling luxury commodities for the impending and foreseeable end-of-the-world. It functions as an extension of their 2014 project, in which they first launched their ‘luxury emergency equipment’ via DISown. The advertised $4,800 life ring, in black neoprene and galvanized gold, embodies the aesthetics of fear that the contemporary luxury market profits from. In the ‘advertisement,’ a luxury yacht is lost at sea, juxtaposed with stylized shots of a female model––all in tightly-orchestrated CGI-imagery. The hectic transitions between utopian advertisement imagery and dystopian disaster footage represent exactly the kind of anxious ambivalence that is exemplified in their product. Brace Brace’s project is an attempt to re-direct that fear, while studying its form, as seen in their other piece Textiles and Moods for Life Ring (2015), which takes a closer look at the materiality of the project.

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Similarly, but by very different means, Jesse Darling’s scrawny iron sculptures bear a kind of melancholic resemblance to the human figure. Their humanism merges with marine navigational tropes such as the anchor and the arrow – pointed, hostile remnants of histories of movement, and within this, a violence. These tropes are used literally and metaphorically, through spatial experimentation and purposeful dislocations of etymology, history and personal agency; at sea, meanings and objects are lost, transformed and re-discovered.

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The title of Darling’s most recent work, Nank, refers to South London street slang for ‘blade’, but also more generally to a (forcefully) ‘anchored’ state. Sea-travel (Darling’s grandfather was a sub-mariner) becomes a metaphor for a range of migrations (etymological, linguistic, physical political), as well as echoing individual and collective struggles for liberation and mobility rights.

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More literally, Darling created Border Door (in memoriam) as a response to the recent and ongoing shipwreck disasters in the Mediterranean Sea, where African migrants risked and lost their lives in desperate attempts to reach a promised life on the European continent.
Embellished in long multi-colored ribbons, the simple symbolism of moving from one space to another is painstakingly efficient: it captures the desperate utopian impulse that lies behind such desperate attempts to migrate, and exemplifies the absurdity of the ensuing tragedy.

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Spanning from the intimate to the corporate, Absolute Bearing is an emotional, aesthetic and highly political examination of crisis, fear disaster beyond the existential. Though Brace Brace’s life-saving gear may seem violent in its corporate aestheticization, it becomes clear in Darling’s desperate in memoriam-piece that any kind of representation – or mediation, for that matter – of actual or hypothetical extinction proves incredibly difficult. Still, the moments of reflection on loss (of navigation, space or lives) that Absolute Bearing offers might bring us closer to an understanding of them.

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ABSOLUTE BEARING
Brace Brace and Jesse Darling
LD50 Gallery
First floor, 4 Tottenham Road, London
13th June – 11th July 2015

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