'She had an uncanny feeling she was repeating herself' : Margaret Dawson. 30 JULY - 11 AUGUST 2008

This work has been created for the High Street Project Gallery partly to celebrate the architectural features of the room and partly to acknowledge the influence of sculptor the late John Dean. I have worked with a very helpful and able team of people to realise this installation, it would not have happened without them. So I wish to thank : 'T.T.' the Electrician; Jose for lots; Malcolm for making and lending lighting equipment: Shaun for photography and being the' right hand' man; Jess and Nick for tin opening; Steve for Panel beating; Kennedy for solving a big problem and making adaptations; Toni for her idea, Richard P for his discussions, Richard J for computer operation, and also the many places and people that saved their tins especially Judy and Bethan.

I said in my proposal that this will not be the usual photographic exhibition, that the framing device surrounding the photographs could take over. The notion of containment and repetition will be reiterated in the materials used to make the structures, and a controlling mechanism in the photographs. 70's performance art pervades. Movement, Light. Repetition again. I want the act of looking into the framing devices to be an exploration and an experience.

So what’s in a tin?

The denuded tin can, stripped of its label, is a ridiculously stunning object – it passes through our hands, on its way to the recycling bin, with at best a fragmentary thought given to its genius. That is, we enjoy a mental pause at the moment of the great revealing, as sodden label falls away from metallic form, and see for a second the purity of the unannounced consumable: the can, no frills, pure function; the revelation here is of opacity, and the can assumes a new life, so easily divorced from its marketplace identity: peaches, catfood, chili beans – all lost in an instant.

The semiotics of Michel Tuffery’s Povi Christkeke rely on the permanence of the product adhering to the can; Margaret Dawson makes use of the ephemerality of the paper label, toying with the semiotic vacuity of the can in-itself.

Dawson, who takes beautiful photographs, also does good things with tin cans. They’re no longer cans, now, but growths. But architectural growths. A kind of organic, metallic Manhattan-like series of islands. Stripped cans become the new nature, and here they have grown, sprouted, assumed a life of conquest, purpose, and shape. Enter the gallery and orient your way through this hybrid jungle.

And there’s life here. Life in lights. Fireflies inside the shapes of the night. In perpetual dusk these limbs of tin occasion moments of illumination. Like insects we’re drawn to the lighted ones, and we peer into them, fascinated, searching, from one to the next we drift, passing by the preterite unilluminated, seeking still (oh, we’re so modern, no?) the illuminati.

Now, the star-belly sneetches had bellies with stars….

Plain-bellies all, we’re forever fascinated by stardom. With an uncanny feeling we are repeating ourselves.

Besotted by stardom, our own stardom: these cans can be exhibited, why can’t I?

Oh, but darling, you are: you’re more on show here than these silly throw-aways.

Hence the tantalising image that accompanies this show: shot through a can-lens is also our fate as we hover hopefully over these cavities of magic. This is the lens’s revenge: rather than being assaulted by light, it captures us with its own light, reminding us: that’s you, fucker, right there, jerking off into this cold hole; sad, alone, squinting against the glare. Gotcha.

So, retire to a corner. Be a wall-flower. Feel the defeat.

And right there, in a quiet corner of the gallery, is your invitation to the big time. There’s a perfect circle, an enticing dance-floor. Sheet metal, the tin lid of a can, but bigger somehow, man; it’s that offcut, that cut off remnant, magnified by the imagination and laid down, waiting for you, just for you. Somebody, plug in the karaoke; somebody, give this man a beat. He needs to break out into, yes, I think it is: THE OFFICIAL DANCE CRAZE OF THE 21ST CENTURY!

A disk on the floor that reflects exactly its double on the ceiling. In between, this is the space we really crave; this is where we’re wanted, desired, where we can shine like a new dime, shake about like a spastic roundabout.

Oh, but it’s a no-go zone. Cos it’s art, and this is like an art gallery brother, and I can’t step on that. I can’t touch this. That’s just where I can be at home, lose myself in the rhythm zone, but I can’t touch this. Guess I’ll just stay here, ’gainst the wall, feeling the beats, feeling the heat, but there’s nothin, tell ya, nothin, goin’ on down my street.

Cos I’m a white boy,

just a white nigga white boy….




There’s also something a bit more prosaic going on here. Something a bit more real. It’s an alarm clock of sorts, but it keeps time that you don’t remember. It’s a kind of homage, a testament to generations that’ve come before. An agitator washing machine, decked out in “just married” decor.

We like a bit of agitation here at HSP, but we like to head home to the Mrs too, before it’s too late.

Can. Cannery. Canned.

If it makes you jump, well, it’s meant to. If it gives you a start, well that’s the idea too.

But it’s worth sticking around for – the sudden eruption onto this quiet scene of the great cacophony of the slave trade.

It’s a racket. - steven Krager