Kate V Robertson
As Glasgow International 2016 draws to a close Rachel Woodside reflects on the work of Kate V Robertson, exhibiting in the unorthodox space of Oxford House.
For the past 18 days Glasgow International has been at the city’s disposal. Charged with energy people thronged through the streets, dipping in and out of buildings, craving the fluorescent green signage labelling spaces 'members of GI'. Although the concentration of events are scattered north of the Clyde it is well worth nipping South side for some hidden gems. Tucked between the river and Norfolk Street and slashed in an unmissable layer of pink is Oxford House.
Arriving at the front of the building from Oxford Street you are greeted and directed through double doors and up a flight of stairs to the courtroom. As you enter into the space you can feel the resonance of authority of what was once Police Barracks.
The show titled ‘Semper Solum’ translates as a double meaning from Latin to both ‘Always Unique’ and ‘Always Alone’. Speaking on the title Kate comments “To me this sums up the human condition - in both its negative and positive ways. Singularity/individuality as both something special and something insurmountable”. Her work is peppered with references to popular trends, including our attitudes towards disposable culture and modern technology which have become an inseparable constituents of our lives. The show includes an amalgamation of works all made specifically as a response to the site.
In the courtroom, the space stretches out, longer in front than to the right. The room is a rectangle. A tapestry of blocks creating a kind of stage litters the front left of the floor, breaking pattern about 2/3rds into the space in each direction. Entering onto the cobblestones, there is no choice but to pass over them to approach into the rest of the space. Beginning the tentative walk the cracking sound of concrete shifting slightly underfoot can be heard. Eyes down, scarring each individual block, it’s hard to focus, impatiently wanting to see them all at once. On closer inspection they are casts from food packaging containers, carrying the distinctive 'rectangular rounded edges' shape, also synonymous with the shape of phones, tablets and laptops.
Exiting the low platform, my gaze filed to the column, teetering on the brink of collapse and rising up towards the exposed rafters. An urban totem pole, playfully referencing Brancusi’s endless column and the casts- insides of traffic cones; Glasgow’s jovial take on the Duke of Wellington statue located outside the GOMA.
My vision was drawn up and whilst trained on the pink thread securing the tower I noticed the rest of the work, positioned above me. The rug-like newsprint suspended from the middle of the ceiling, sourced from the Financial Times, is shredded on both ends whilst crisp and fresh in the middle, holds an interesting tension. The unscathed middle holding potential for the power of words to be absorbed while the ends suggest the eradication of data.
Lowering my gaze I noticed the windows in the background, whitewashed with a swiping motion pattern. Another reference to our obsession with screens. The foreground is dominated with a strange terracotta sausage-string of fingers suspending a cymbal, a sort of Michelangelo- Punch and Judy hybrid. As with the ‘Financial Times’ it holds a tension, a frustration perhaps of so many fingers yet none able to strike the cymbal and generate noise.
Looking up again a giant foam finger droops down from the ceiling. Unlike at sporting events where it radiates a sign of support, it booms a judgement in the context of the courtroom. The presence of the light on the CD reflecting onto the front wall of the courtroom again resonates out the focus that we put on technology in our lives as it twirls softly in the background mesmerising.
Absorbing the show you can’t help but draw correlations between the work and the history of the space as an old courtroom. The colour palette of the work blends with that of the peeling paint and worn floorboards while themes of exposure and privacy run ripe through the work. The physical work questions these ideas in terms of our obsession with technology and the space lends itself to give the work another context, that of the judicial system, always watching over us.
If you missed the chance to see Robertson's work then visit her website at katevrobertson.com for information about her work and what she is up to!
Words by Rachel Woodside