Mat Collishaw

Various Venues

This fourfold presentation of works by Mat Collishaw—not only in two galleries, Analix Forever and Art & Public–Cabinet PH, but also in the lobby of an upscale hotel and a room in a private apartment, dubbed for the nonce “Mat Collishaw Museum”—well suited an oeuvre formulated on changing narrative levels and refracted in various media. An example of this may be found in Lady Killer, 2004, the many-layered video installation at Analix Forever: Entering the simple gallery room from the street, visitors found themselves in front of a historical stage in a recreated interior that apparently served as the setting for the video playing behind it. Beyond a loom and stool, a view opened out between heavy red velvet curtains and through a window to a video projection of a gently moving scene based on W.M. Egley’s painting The Lady of Shalott, 1858. The video tableau, like the painting, follows the Arthurian legend popularized by Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s eponymous poem: The young Lady is cursed, forced to spend her days imprisoned in a room where she weaves images of the people and things of the outside world, which she can only see in a mirror, into a giant tapestry. One day, the knight Lancelot rides by, and she is unable to resist looking directly out the window; leaving her room, she dies. Collishaw brings this tale to life by trans posing the interior space of the nineteenth-century illustration into moving pictures with a contemporary urban setting. Seeing the Lady of Shalott set aside her historical costume to stride in tall boots and long coat through the streets of nighttime London, we also take leave of the illusionism of the video image, the better to reflect its historical and physical construction. Making the conditions of its presentation obvious, Collishaw refutes its claim to be a simple mirror of reality: “The mirror crack’d from side to side” (Tennyson). We, too, can leave the decorated interior behind, walk around the gallery behind the stage set, and cast our shadows on the projection. What should happen to us if we, like the woman under a spell, abandon the space of the picture?

In his sometimes burlesque scenes, Collishaw combines diverse media in order to investigate and disrupt the relationships of myths and their iconography. In the temporary “museum”—a private space with a lightly jesting claim to institutional status—photographs, objects, drawings, and projections were brought together in a loose gathering of references. Again and again, his work is about ways of framing, about images that fight against their containers, like the video work Clone, 2004, in which the image of an egg is projected into a birdcage where it floats frozen and caught, or the light-box images of flower still lifes collaged from photographs of patches of diseased skin. In Lillies, 2001, shown at the Mandarin Oriental Hôtel du Rhône, a bouquet of lilies opens, blooms, and dies in a flash—as a video projected into the frame of a hearth made of precious wood: a memento mori, or a postmodern fable blending everyday life and the playfulness of art history.

Hans Rudolf Reust

Translated from German by Sara Ogger.