Exhibition visit to the IKON gallery, Birmingham: Zilvinas Kempinas


Zilvinas Kempinas, White noise (2007)

The New York based Lithuanian artist’s work is described as elemental as it uses the natural elements of air and light together with basic man-made industrial commodities such as videotape and ball bearings which are developed into powerful multimedia installations. The effect is to disorientate the viewer whilst creating an immediate yet lasting sense of illusion. I found the art works aesthetically pleasing, deeply thought provoking but also interesting and relevant to how we might question and utilise photography as a medium.

The first ‘Untitled’ installation was specifically created for the IKON gallery “involves an upside-down video projection of a ride through forested landscape and a mass of metal rods (tripods) painted white and arranged on a high gloss black floor. It combines viewers’ movements through the space and formal density to result in a controlled environment that is immediately disorientating.” In a conversation with the gallery assistant I learned that the video-film was made by fixing a video camera to the artist’s bicycle as he rode through a forest creating a physical rollercoaster effect as oppose a smooth cinematic panning effect a small detail that adds further tension and confusion for the viewer.

The second major installation White Noise (2007) is effectively “countless lengths of tape stretched horizontally wall-to-wall, agitated by ventilator fans”, creating the feeling of movement and motion in a sensory overload. Again the viewer must navigate fixed physical obstacles as they are drawn to the main aspect of the installation.

Zilvinas Kempinas, Illuminator series (2015)

The final works that I found of interest were the Illuminator series (2015) which “From a distance they resemble surfaces of a full moon – a bright sphere in a dark sky – but are in fact circles of flat rough wall, lit along their perimeters.” This simple but brilliant act of framing and lighting a section of the gallery wall before offering it back to the audience was a brilliant and effective conceptual illusion.

Zilvinas Kempinas completely captivates the viewer’s senses and imagination whilst making them seek out rational and objective interpretations of his works. We are left with a powerful sense of control and manipulation where we see the world through a prism of illusions and we are left with wondering what else may well not be quite as it seems.

This sense of trickery and deception is very relevant to photography so often seen as the objective medium of representation – yet unable to effectively deliver this claim. What I also enjoyed was the artist’s use of imagery via video-film and the use celluloid tape materials making direct references to film, photography and contemporary culture clear metaphors for the influences of an advanced society and contrasted and combined with the natural world.

I feel that this exhibition is quite experimental in my overall thinking and in the way that I see photography as a medium to express and communicate and not as an end in itself. I am also wondering whether I particularly enjoy metaphorical representation and conceptual thinking and this is something that I will reflect further upon.

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