“Heart and Soul”

60 Long Lane

Sometimes group shows seem to have been the result of some bright young thing saying, “I know, we could do it right here.” Occasionally they are more interesting. Installed in a South London warehouse, “Heart and Soul” included everything from paintings and photographs to sci-fi gizmos, computer-aided images, and flowers—in other words, lots of stuff and plenty of ideas. D.J. Simpson carved into the white-painted, wood-paneled walls, creating designs of overlapping ovals that look like rotating orbits—or what you might get if you trapped Sol LeWitt in a cupboard. Kirsten Berkeley titled her dual-colored lathe-turned MDF forms to suggest weird same-sex marriages across time (between, say, Charles Babbage and John Cage).

Although the organizers of “Heart and Soul” are fairly recent graduates (all but one from Goldsmiths), they presented a varied range of contributors, several of whom are already familiar names on the circuit. Thus one of Steven Gontarski’s ultrasynthetic but anthropomorphic sculptures, an ink figure by Jun Hasegawa, a large cat from Martin Maloney, and a work by Michael Raedecker sat among works by lesser-knowns.

Inevitably, the inclusion of only one work each from the thirty-five artists meant that one couldn’t come expecting to look at things in depth. But to its credit, the show also avoided appearing over-earnest: There was no attempt to make everything fit under some notional theme, no overriding program, no preference for this or that medium. This was not an effort to herald a new movement or tendency, nor to make a statement about what exists elsewhere or what has gone on before. The awareness of what else there is and has been was evident in the work, in its selection and grouping for the installation, but the knowledge was worn lightly.

There were several jokes here, too, such as Gary Webb’s Been There, Seen That, Done It, 1999, a blue Perspex winged panel that comes off the wall (with the apparent intention of enveloping the viewer’s head) and from which is suspended a toy coffin that shakes and screams “Let me out of here!” if you get too close. In Two Forms, Orange and Brown, 1999, Roger Hiorns has hung two crucibles from the ceiling. Compressors on the floor feed oxygen into the base of each vessel, causing the liquid detergent inside to bubble up, until the weight of the bubbles gets to be too much and the whole white column of them slumps impotently and messily to the floor. Eventually the bubbles burst and disappear, but they leave behind them an interesting smell.

One imagines, walking around the show, that some viewers might have been disappointed by the lack of an overt politics, or of an apparent commitment to something beyond the work itself. Ultimately, though, this was the sign of a healthy refusal to do our work for us. “Heart and Soul,” in other words, was not just another one of those group shows that are frequently staged in ad hoc spaces: It was its own creature and quietly made its own demands.

Michael Archer