Brand New Second Hand : Amelia Bywater & Anton Mogridge. 5 -23 April, 2005

They say one person’s junk is anothers treasure. Perhaps objects have life cycles just like nature. Or at least they should. Brand New Second Hand is about two artists engaging in a resourceful act of recycling. Materials get a working over, a new life even...

Amelia Bywater and Anton Mogridge

Motivated by some kind of liberal turn, the work of Amelia Bywater and Anton Mogridge openly elides modernity’s faith in progress and its representations of value, instead presenting a variety of objects and atmospherics that mobilise the open, associative space of shared cultural experience and the value of memory.
For both artists the initiating moment of their creative process is the finding, unearthing and salvaging of lost or devalued objects. Mogridge lays claim to the seductive appeal of the veneer-clad speaker box, while Bywater looks to domestic trinkets and collectables for the starting point of her inquiry.

The original artefact of Mogridge’s intrigue lends it’s surface to a number of his works, its grainy texture giving a nod to the liberated times and personal freedoms of an early stereo culture still alive and well in some form or other today (think house parties and backyard mix sessions) where the latest records are played and exchanged within a personal and meaningful social context. Yet this subtle intonation is graphically and literally overwritten by the inferred presence of the contemporary, and most often obnoxious culture of the ‘boy racer’ with its souped up, stereophonically loaded vehicles that pound their way through the night with all the ‘attractive’ automotive gadgetry and sonic distortion that money can by.

Glowing, green neon highlights a ‘graphic equaliser’ re-created and modelled upon one wall as the quintessential bass/base echo of DOOF DOOF is writ large on another. It’s interesting to consider Mogridge’s take on all of this. Is he seeking to associatively represent what is most often considered a cringe worthy and socially irresponsible culture in order to poke fun at it’s fascination with the new, gleaming, tight and white surfaces of youth? Any potential for the expression of such a mono-culture’s value or, on the other hand, its threat to the decency of social norms, is playfully disarmed as Mogridge’s doubled statement is pieced together and consequently amplified through his appropriation of wack, out-dated stereo branding/iconography, as numerous small reproductions make up the imposing presence upon HSP’s wall.

Speaking loudly, if not strictly eloquently, of contemporary concerns about the pass-times and perspectives of our youth culture is awfully responsible don’t you think, what with the various local outcries over the 24hr availability of ‘herbal highs’ and NOS. Here Mogridge’s work can be seen to attempt to slow social processes down and create a space with in which negotiation could possibly occur between the affected/disaffected parties, recovering a mode of quiet contemplation and encounter that ultimately wouldn’t do either side any harm at all.

Through their orientation towards a salvage paradigm, the socially informed practices of Mogridge and Bywater clearly share a motivation not uncommon to their generation or the times. Recycling old materials into new, both artists imaginatively recreate their world and ask questions of the practices that continue to constitute the world we recognise and know.

By now, most of us accepted unquestionably our position (if not role) within the ‘throw away’ culture of contemporary society. Consumerism runs rife within our ‘enlightened’ world of excess as upgrades, trade-ins and new models constantly supplant the familiar and trusty objects of old. So it’s just as well that someone else’s trash is still most often another’s treasure, as who knows what would happen otherwise.

Work that attempts to take shared or personal memories and values into account most often starts with an initiating memory and attempts to relate it to the wider framework of cultural and conceptual relations. This starting point is most often the local, the familiar and the subjective. As established by Susannah Radstone in her introduction to the anthology called Memory and Methodology, early theories of cultural memory were “associated with some utopian space and time beyond what [Walter] Benjamin called the homogenous empty time of the capitalist present” (3). In this space, Benjamin looked to those things cast aside by society in an attempt to understand the material histories and alternative value of those objects themselves. Similarly, Bywater sought out some of those forgotten, forlorn fragments and playthings of yesteryear, drawn particularly to those made from re-useable materials such as glass, metal or ceramics. Through the action of moulding, casting and recasting these figurines and fragments Bywater’s processes serves to echo, if not directly reproduce, the techniques and principles of many of the objects’ original production. The broken down and imperfect versions of her labours also find themselves on display, seeking to illustrate ‘the dust to dust’ cyclic nature of this artist’s transformative practices. Plaster work cracks and crumbles while wax burns, drips and re-solidifies quietly and patiently upon the domestic surfaces and platforms that Bywater provides.

These quiet, patient works are subtly oppositional and strategic in their re-presentation within the formalised context of the gallery. Drawn from the sites and surfaces of daily life they act out, reproducing a series of fragmented still-life compositions and collections, their dusty fragility highlighting their status which clearly resides at least one remove from the reality of the originals that spawned them. In this way the physical memory of the materials themselves becomes a text to be deciphered as Bywater’s work attempts to straddle the divide and document “the liminal space between forgetting and transformation” (12).

Kate Montgomery

All quotes taken from Susannah Radstone, (2000). “Working with memory: An Introduction” in Memory and thodology. Oxford, Berg: 1-22.