“Are We There Yet?”

Glass Box

That nomadism is a characteristic condition of life in the age of globalization has become something of a cliché. And some of our assumptions regarding the ever-increasing ease of international travel and the porousness of cultural boundaries have taken a severe battering over the past few months. This exhibition's title suggested the plaintive cry of a jaded traveler yearning for some sort of conclusion to a seemingly endless journey. Yet the assembled works combined to emphasize the illusory nature of any such sense of closure and the unlikely prospect of any definitive arrival. Spearheaded by Paul O'Neill and David Blamey, London-based artists from Ireland and England respectively, who also enlisted Dublin-based artists Grace Weir and the Walker twins, this show unfurled itself in early October like a tightly packed traveling circus for a five-week stint at this well-established artist-run venue in Paris's latest bohemia, the up-and-coming Eleventh Arrondissement.

Descending from street level into the main gallery space the visitor first encountered Walker & Walker's The Wanderer, 2000, from behind. This life-size model of the figure in the foreground of Caspar David Friedrich's Wanderer in the Mists, 1818, appropriately attired but apparently hovering on a cushion of light emanating from the soles of his boots, magisterially surveyed a narrow garden walkway through one of the gallery's trademark glass walls. The Wanderer shared gallery space with a monitor displaying Weir's Return, 2001, a loop of footage shot from a camera rapidly submerging in a turbulent sea, resurfacing, and soaring skyward only to plunge back into the sea again. Weir's second video, Clock, 2001, was comparably cyclical, comprising a looped one-second-long close-up of a solitary dandelion blown by the wind. Scattering seeds right and left, but nonetheless giving the impression of continual renewal, Clock cheated time; with the same disarming simplicity, Blamey's two adjacent works faked mace. One was a section of dark blue wall-to-wall carpeting covered with hundreds of polystyrene balls of various sizes. A brief trudge through this down-to-earth night sky, Floor Space, 2001, led to Blamey's second piece, Wall Space, 2001, a projection of a similarly starlit sky onto a large blank canvas casually propped against a wall. This particular starry night, however, was produced by projecting light from an overhead projector through a pinpricked sheet of paper. Such a low-tech presentation of the Do-It-Yourself Sublime belied the fact that the pinpricks actually represented a page-upon-page overlay of all the full stops in Stephen Hawking and George F.R. Ellis's The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time, thereby constituting a literal punctuation of the figuratively impenetrable. O'Neill's video The Blue Danube, 2001, footage shot from the window of a car waltzing crazily around an enormous French parking lot to Strauss's familiar melody, was as soothing as his Forest Fresh, 2001, was abrasive. The latter was a miniature plantation of hundreds of tree-shaped Forest Fresh air fresheners, located in a small room off a short dead-end corridor. This sculpture's increasingly pungent assault on the nostrils of a packed opening-night crowd was as discomfiting and rebarbative as O'Neill's third work, No, 2001, a small neon sign In which the “no” of NO VACANCIES switched on and off repeatedly. “Are We There Yet?” was a closely orchestrated essay on open-endedness, the ordinariness of the infinite, and the perennial quandaries of repetition, contradiction, and deferral.

Caoimhín Mac Giolla Léith