Have you ever felt surprised by the way the present unfolds? Have you ever thought that the present before you now (a future of another time) is unrecognisable? Or at the every least improbable? The chances are that you have, and it would seem that if you have, you’re not alone.
– Curatorial Text, Lateral Futures
In the grounds of a country estate, just over one hour outside London, an 18th century stable building has been converted into modern gallery called Other – Space. Under the direction of Tom Plumptre and Fearghus Raftery of the Other-Art Network (OA.N) – an initiative that commissions and produces contemporary art with the express intention of challenging traditional delineations of discipline and media – Other – Space’s first exhibition Lateral Futures comprises work specifically built for the newly renovated gallery in Goodnestone Park Gardens.
Loosely based on Edward de Bono’s concept of ‘lateral thinking’, the exhibition comprises photography, painting, sculpture and installation, with overtly modern artworks interacting within a Victorian gallery space. De Bono’s 1967 theory is concerned with solving problems through creative means. Plumptre’s and Raftery’s interpretation of ‘lateral thinking’ confronts the viewer immediately, before even entering the gallery through the installation of Grace Adams’s Unreasonable (I), 2018, outside the gallery’s exterior. The work, which resembles some kind of ladder, clings onto the façade in an awkward, unexpected manner. It has a kink in the middle of it, jutting out horizontally instead of vertically, meaning that it would be almost completely useless in it’s normal function, moving from an object that provides safety and assurance, to something that would cause its user to fall to the ground.
Inside the gallery, on the other side of the building’s walls, Adams’s A Kind of Ladder, 2014/2018 rests in a corner. The wood that makes up the pine yellow stained ladder becomes narrower as it moves towards the ceiling, making the structure seem particularly flimsy and unstable. In the centre of the space, a large piece of tracing paper is suspended from the ceiling by a series of thin, clear wires. Amelia Bowles’s Untitled, 2018, is pricked with dozens of tiny holes, which cast shadows that change as the natural light outside the stables-come-gallery gets lighter and darker.
More sculptural works are exhibited in the form of Matthew Turner’s A Digital History // Resolution, 2018, which is formed from cotton, linen and cloth. The installation resembles towels hanging in a bathroom, and uses material from four different time periods, showing how fabrics change over time and develop along with the invention of new technologies. Turner’s materials show how the craft involved in constructing each material becomes invisible as time progresses, with weaving and gridded construction visible in the linen example on the far left, but with any form of construction imperceptible in the plastic elements.
On either sides of Turner’s piece are photographic offerings by Marko Milovanovic and Owain Caruana-Davies. Both Milovanovic’s and Caruana-Davies’s works deal with time and the process of ageing. In Nothing Changes, 2018, Milovanovic photographs the same spot in Regent’s Park over the space of a year, with very little changes being visible throughout the series of black and white images. This representation of a space that travels through time hardly ages, or shows any sign of change, providing a strange reading of ‘lateral futures.’ In Moments of Incision, LT Ranch, Lithuania, 2018, Caruana-Davies, submerges a fuel tank under water. The whole process is documented in film and displayed as still images. The carcass of the vehicle was then lifted out from the water, and then hung inside by wires, much like Amelia Bowles’s Untitled, and photographed again in a larger format. The suspended object seems to have decayed a little, or may even have rusted. It is almost as though Caruana-Davies is airing it out to dry. And, while it looks as though it should have disintegrated altogether, somehow it is still in one piece.
Photography continues through Tom Plumptre’s analogue black and white images of trees. Arboretum 1, 2, 2018, captures specimens that can be found on the grounds of Goodnestone Park Gardens where the gallery is situated. Besides these natural structures, National Theatre Series, 2018, depicts photographs of the concrete brutalist architecture of the theatre that can be found on London’s South Bank. In the same space, Fearghus Raftery’s altered colour photographs Healthy Frequencies, 2018, investigate the tension between scientific process and systems of belief in places across the UK that include Bristol Royal Infirmary and Shapwick Heath. The futuristic images capture what look like experimental zones or scientific laboratories, and are individually given titles of hertz frequency readings.
As well as photography and installation, there are a number of painted works by Craig Fisher and Moyra Derby. Some of the work involves painting directly onto the gallery walls, with the artwork encroaching on the gallery’s architecture, in a random but geometric manner. While a series of smaller, blue and peach paintings that resemble illustrations of interior design and architecture are hung in a line along the gallery’s stable walls.
The mix of contemporary art within a Victorian architectural framework, which still has the original troughs and walls used to separate and feed horses, makes for a unique and thought-provoking gallery experience that fits seamlessly with de Bono’s ‘lateral thinking’ concept. The work in Lateral Futures asks questions instead of answering them, using de Bono’s ideas to understand the way our futures are heading. In a global political climate where every tomorrow seems uncertain, it does not seem radical to question whether we are progressing forward, or moving into the future in an uncertain, somewhat peculiar fashion, with little sense of moving into the future in an uncertain fashion, with little sense of direction.
Lateral Futures is on display at Goodnestone Park Gardens, Goodnestone, Kent, CT3 1PL