On the Phoenix Exhibition, Driving school - David Bellingham, 19th- 24th Feb 2019, Brighton
(This is a personal take on visiting the exhibition, not views of any artists involved or credited or anyone belonging to the gallery, meant as in informal statement about a lived experience)
Well I love words, but hate driving. So I felt I got it instantly, I always find it amazing when artists make real life experiences (sometimes trivial) and create whole exhibitions about them. Are we obsessive as artists? I guess so.
So the exhibition starts with two driving fines placed lovingly in frames and wishes us to note by viewing them, they are different cars with same driver the same number plate and offence but two years apart (seemingly belonging to the artist). Like a real life deja vu, klink in the Matrix or the annoyance of our capability of making the same mistakes again. From then on the exhibition holds plastic acrylic signs in primary colours, car parts and paper ‘L’ learner signs ripped up and carefully put back together plus many other modern driving related paraphernalia. On the floor, propped to-scale road signs melancholy reading things like 'not much’ 'a place amongst places’ 'a sign amongst signs’. The only rustic material in the exhibition is the antique wooden staircase placed centrally in the room, piercing through the space, varnished and showing years of wear.
I didn't realise this staircase was part of the exhibition at first, even though it doesn’t make much sense being there and looked precarious! This was a fun juxtaposition for me as I realised it only went to a black painted hole in the ceiling and realised its relevance within the exhibition.
I’ve reflected on this old staircase since. Maybe it was the only real escape? Like your grandad's attic where things go from clinical-real-life, to imaginary and antique, collected and tarnished. Another world is just above you.
Initial reaction was the fear flooding back of first learning to drive, all the signs that made no sense, multi tasking and maneuvering through the space, senses on overload. Although I’m not sure directly how much the artist wanted this to resonate but the information available left it open to interpretation and the title 'driving school’ should imply I’m on the right track. However the exhibition is about more than that, as it states it is 'unlearning and relearning, undoing and redoing and unmaking and remaking’ and goes into more abstract ideas like an electric toothbrush bring used as a paintbrush and iron horseshoe’s straightened out, because why not?!
I think being Dyslexic the exhibition struck a chord, I remember getting told off a lot at school for misreading rules of learning, this goes there, that’s for that… no not there! Its brilliant the element of re-thinking David Bellingham has built. (It also means I can read something and forget it at the same time, so I’ve always enjoyed witty one liners!)
I heard a clicking on entering second room and traced the sound to a slide projector on auto, casually showing power phrases onto a white wall. As the projector was the first sign of life this made me reflect upon the artist, who is he? The Phoenix gallery is available to outside artists and obviously he loves anonymity as he describes himself as someone who hardly exhibits and almost like a pink panther artist hard to track and pin down. This makes me think does he work under a alter-ego? I would understand this if the work was of a sensitive nature but from what I saw I could see no reason why the artist would hide (usually artists relish their exhibitions like shy rockstars) maybe that’s part of the mystery….
….maybe he never paid the fine.
Thanks for reading, please visit the exhibition for your own experience. Definitely worth the trip. Beep beep.