Fogel Stapleton and Rebecca Warren

Wobbling and moving continuously, a small drawing of a cat and mouse was pulled along by a motorized device. This was part of a recent exhibition by Fergal Stapleton and Rebecca Warren, and the show’s initial impact was—as with the pair’s previous projects—a heightened sense of confusion. Stapleton and Warren have collaborated a number of times over the past few years, but they seem less anxious to present a consistent statement than to suggest a fractured dialogue. The central presence here, dividing the gallery into two distinct areas, was a pale-blue rectangular box almost as high as the room itself. A red light cast a warm glow on the ceiling, and on Warren’s side of the box she stuck a picture of an erupting volcano. The box divided the space into a boy’s part and a girl’s part, although this was subverted at almost every turn.

Pink was everywhere. A string of tiny rose-colored lights was loosely coiled and hung on the wall along with an image of pink flowers and one of Stapleton’s business cards, on which was written “He was dead before his ass ever stepped into the ring.” As it happened, the kind of microphone that might descend over a boxing ring was just around the corner, hung below the ceiling, its unattached cord looped neatly and stuck to the wall. Below it appeared a photograph of Warren consulting a map in the country, her body picked out by a red spotlight. At the far end of the room, an area of wall had been painted a pale pink, providing a backdrop to a homely but disturbing tableau. Two kitschy, fluffy toy cats sat on a plinth, also pale-pink, as if guarding a dysfunctional group of objects on the floor nearby, while an old video monitor resting on a blanket showed a fuzzy black and white tape of Warren’s sleeping head. An uncut record revolved on a turntable, and the sound of Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale” seeped out from below the floor. There was also a sketch of a face, alongside a red neon version of the same image; a huge plastic model of a fly; and a number of shallow holes drilled in the wall. It is almost too ridiculous to say it, but the pinks and reds really did appear to be signaling a (largely suppressed or repressed) emotional charge.

There were plinths of various description all over the space. In Stapleton’s section a low, unpainted platform was marked with footprints, suggesting a sullied vantage point consistent with the overall impression that the work had been made by a disgraced seminarian. On a plinth in Warren’s section sat blocks of plasticine twisted into a crude anthropomorphic shape. Three others were grouped as a weird managerie—having been transformed into a cow, a bee, and a sheep by blobs of black paint, wooden blanks, and a twig held on with masking tape. Warren’s title for her curious assemblage was “The Child Ain’t Right.”

Stapleton painted over the gallery’s large shopfront window and scratched tiny holes in the paint, transforming day into night. Pinpricks of light shone into the darkened space like numerous stars—random scintillations that were echoed in Warren’s drill-holes at the opposite end of the building. Above the stars appeared a text: “The unadorned hardcore world of the anabolic mutant in stir.” Grammatically correct yet semantically incoherent, this seemed a concise synopsis of contemporary states and desires.

Michael Archer