Andrew Sunley Smith - Migratory Projects (4 stars)

Andrew Sunley Smith - Migratory Projects

CCA, Glasgow, until Sat 18 Nov


Migratory Projects, by Australian artist Andrew Sunley Smith, loosely explores migration and survival, via records of journeys through Australia. Along with documentary photographs, items from the journeys are re-presented as artworks.

Sunley Smith has said, ‘The objects involved in the exhibition process have endured and experienced something very real and direct.’ This integration of everyday life and art is at the core of his practice. Carrier III in gallery one is a van transformed into a portable home, filled with sleeping bag, kettle, tins of food, etc. On the top is a portable garden, growing tomatoes and herbs. Road Trip Dinners, a series of photographs displayed on a TV monitor aims to extend the appreciation of Carrier III; artist and friend drive the van to catch and prepare a fish for dinner before cooking it over the van engine with vegetables and herbs from the portable garden.

These works do seem like travel documentary with little philosophical impact, yet Sunley Smith seems to quietly question the need for our excessive throwaway culture of consumption; perhaps we could all find more economical means of living like Sunley Smith’s van/garden. Microgestures, an ongoing series of digital prints pinned loosely to the wall continues the utopian feel, revealing equal divisions of labour among travellers. Images of anonymous hands hammering and cooking are displayed alongside idyllic landscapes, creating an altruistic alternative society.

In contrast with the woolly idealism of the opening works, The Drive Out Cinema is a powerful, haunting and moving video/installation. Projected onto a large, cinematic screen is footage of domestic items such as tables, chairs, and even a piano, being violently dragged along deserted, midnight roads by a rope tied to a moving vehicle, while unknown figures run towards us as if trying to catch up. Displayed around the screen are the many salvaged tragic and tortured remains of the objects. Sunley Smith’s running people recreate something of the unrest and dislocation in our constantly changing runaway culture and the salvaged objects, like Carrier III, reveal possibilities for multiple use or regeneration which lies within so much of what we carelessly misuse, destroy or discard.

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