“Trip of the Tongue”

Simon Lee | Hong Kong
12 Pedder Street, 304, 3F The Pedder Building
September 22, 2017–October 27, 2017

Elaine Cameron-Weir, Vault (detail), 2017, Stainless steel, dental phantom, rawhide, heating mantle, transformer, glass, and labdanum resin, 74 x 15 x 11".

For her first show in Asia, curator Piper Marshall brings together works by five artists, including painting, sculpture, drawing, and photography. Titled “Trip of the Tongue,” a layered malapropism of the idiom “slip of the tongue,” the exhibition sets out to explore the problem of language through pieces that manipulate, even celebrate, the deficiencies of human expression and perception.

The show is rigorously coherent, featuring a through line of dental imagery that, along with the tongue, constantly draws viewers’ attention back to the mouth, that imperfect instrument of language. Judith Bernstein’s charcoal text works provide the exhibition’s pivot. The titular word in Brain, 1995, barely legible through the artist’s frenetic scrawl, hangs opposite that of Teeth, 1995, whose forceful lines are more clearly defined. Here is the chaos of the mind, controlled—untidily—by the filter of speech.

But teeth do not merely enable or represent communication. Their shape, size, and color, for example, can indicate a person’s class and culture, or a period’s social and aesthetic ideals. Elaine Cameron-Weir’s fascinating stainless-steel sculpture Vault, 2017, includes an altered dental phantom—a nightmarish model of the human jaw used in the early 1900s for training dentists. If there is an eerie allure to Cameron-Weir’s piece, it is echoed in Torbjørn Rødland’s photograph Enamel Floor, 2015. The vignette depicts dental prostheses alongside a swirl of ribbon or bandage. Both artists take the perfection inherent to a model or mold and, through their interpretations, make it perverse.

— Samantha Kuok Leese