Critics’ Picks

View of “Park McArthur,” 2016.


Park McArthur

Chisenhale Gallery
64 Chisenhale Road
January 29 - April 3

Three huge, silent slabs of high-density Polyurethane Foam, 2016—a material that is tasked with sucking up sound—stand by the entrance at Park McArthur’s first solo exhibition in the UK. Like everything else here, they seem to be getting pulled toward the edges of the room; even the overhead lighting appears centrifugal, illuminating the boundaries of the space more than its contents.

In “Polys,” 2016, large, white sheets of paper are treated with superabsorbent polymer, a powder that is used in diapers and sanitary pads to stabilize fluids by turning them into gel. Throughout the duration of the show these highly absorbent monochromes are gradually warping, as they take in the moisture of their surroundings (including our breath). It becomes evident that objects are not fixed or self-contained units here; they’re sites of contact.

“Contact,” made between 2015–16, is a cluster of plinths presenting stainless-steel trays filled with disposable products: condoms, tissues, medical tubing, foam dressings, latex gloves, plasters, antibacterial wipes, lubricants, surgical masks, protective balms, an HIV test kit, and other consumer/medical items relating in various ways to the body’s permeable boundaries.

Important work has been done within the field of disability studies to challenge our ideas about where the body ends and where its surroundings and supports begin. Questions that are present here take on an immediate sociopolitical urgency when we encounter a plinth holding a stack of A4 copies of a letter— Equinox House—that was issued by the UK’s Independent Living Fund last year, advising its members that the government-subsidized scheme, which had long supported independent living for disabled people, was coming to an end.