There is an inherent difficulty, even an incongruity, in attempting to address such a potentially unmanageable topic as trauma within the confines of an exhibition. How can the orderly containment and presentation of a collection of artworks exemplify rupture and disfiguration? The decision by curators Katrina Brown, Fiona Bradley, and Andrew Nairne to restrict themselves to the space within the gallery walls, rather than let the work spill out into the surrounding environment, was largely dictated by the fact that this show is destined to travel. Yet their tightly orchestrated show of recent works by a dozen artists made the most of its intriguing internal echoes and rhymes, rhythmic disruptions and contrapuntal movements.

Martin Boyce’s Now I’ve Got Worry (Storage Unit), 1997, a beat-up Eames unit remade to incorporate makeshift signs redolent of the urban badlands, stood guard inside the show’s entrance like a disheveled and abstracted Cerberus, warning visitors to GO HOME THERE IS NOTHING 2 SEE. (The messages are from papers allegedly found in O.J. Simpson’s house after his wife’s murder.) On view in the same space was a small array of Maria Lindberg’s delicately disturbing drawings, whose mordant wit hinted at sundry personal injuries, ailments, and abandonments. This antechamber led immediately to a walkthrough screening room which featured Johan Grimonprez’s widely acclaimed Dial H-I-S-T-0-R-Y, 1997, a sixty-eight-minute documentary history of airplane hijacking garnished with suitably paranoiac extracts from Don DeLillo and accompanied by a sound track of classic soul, funk, and disco. Ushering the visitor into the main gallery space was another customized down-at-heel stick of furniture, Lucia Nogueira’s Untitled, 1992, made up of two buckled shelves, three nails, and a pushpin.

The connection established by Boyce’s and Nogueira’s two sculptures between the equally distressed (and by implication distressing) nature of our public spaces and private worlds was amplified by a number of other works by artists whose political engagement did not preclude personal introspection or traditional pictorial and sculptural concerns. These ranged from Guillermo Kuitca’s two large canvases, broody evocations of loss, displacement, and obliteration, to Kendell Geers’s artfully arranged heap of sixty flashing red emergency beacons (Cry Wolf, 1999). The apocalyptic quotation printed on the collaborative paper stack by Christopher Wool and Felix Gonzilez-Torres echoed pre-Revolutionary Russia via ’60s Situationism, whereas Tracey Moffatt’s Scarred for Life II, 1999, a series of photo-text works, spoke of more mundane indignities and cruelties.

The debilitating and dehumanizing consequences of armed struggle were explored from the differing vantage points of contemporary Northern Ireland and Albania by Willie Doherty and Anri Sala respectively. Tell Me What You Want, 1996, is a two-monitor video installation that typifies Doherty’s concern with the blurring of individual perspectives and the confusions of communal memory in the face of endemic civic violence. The two monitors feature backlit silhouettes of a man and a woman whose spoken recollections of various incidents of suspicious activity merge and diverge unpredictably. This work was well-matched with Sala’s Nocturnes, 1999, an eleven-minute video projection shot in northern France that interspliced the ramblings of an eccentric young tropical-fish enthusiast with the confessions of a young UN soldier formerly on active service in the Balkans. Both of these works were, in turn, worlds apart from Ann-Sofi Sidén’s QM, I Think I’ll Call Her QM 1997, in which Sidén’s characteristic fascination with what goes on behind closed doors took an abrupt detour from a recognizably real world into a bizarre dreamworld of claustrophobic seclusion and delusionary weird science.

Caoimhín Mac Giolla Léith