The Simon Starling exhibition showing at the Institute of Modern Art from October 5th to November 30th 2013 presents a series of visual puzzles using an extensive array of materials. From sculpture and installation to photography and film, all the works within the exhibition are a result of extensive research, fine-tuning, and editing. Whilst in some works this has the potential to inhibit the audience’s ability to immediately connect, Starling leaves tantalising strands of visual information for them to grab hold of. If the audience is diligent and investigates a little further, they are rewarded with a rich and historical denouement.
Starling’s re-contextualisation of seemingly ordinary objects allows them to speak of new ideas in which their history is intersected with a broader cultural construct (Birnbaum 2008). These simple objects often become unexpectedly complex, asking the viewers to commit themselves to unravelling their mystery. Venus Mirrors (05.06.12, Hawaii and Tahiti (Inverted)) 2012 situates two opposing concave mirrors in a passage way between two other works. Together they create a tension as the viewer searches for some sort of perspective or illusion, negotiating the expectation of their own reflection. As they move around, the mirrors reveal a shifting black disk representing Venus’ transit in 2012, which was the basis for advancements in the understanding of solar system dimensions.
Many of Simon Starling’s works are unique, handcrafted, purpose built objects. Wilhelm Noacko.H.G(2006) appears like a bespoke spiral staircase in the middle of a room, projecting a black and white film on the far wall. The object itself, towering almost to the ceiling, supports a 35mm film projector. The frame of the metal helical structure casts shadows across the floor and walls, and the grinding hammering metal sounds from the projection emanate through the room. On closer inspection the work reveals itself to be an intricate system of pullies feeding the film through the projector. The film itself is a series of realistic and abstract shots, moving through a metal fabrication factory. When the viewer reads further in to the work they discover that the film is documenting the making of the projection support structure, whilst also paralleling a historical recording of the factory. The film machine resonates with Starlings research practice; they appear to create a hermetic loop of information and processes. It also becomes evident that the particular factory used for the work is important as Wilhelm Noak, the works namesake, had close ties with the Bauhaus and Modernist structure fabrication (Bonaspetti 2011). These kind of intricate details characterize Starling’s work throughout the exhibition. From a stripped piece of a tree sitting in front of a photograph of itself standing tall in a forest, to the series of sculptures constructed from images of Francis Bacons’ desk and the subsequent imitations, all his works offer a conceptual journey beyond themselves.
Image : Simon Starling.Courtesy of the Institute of Modern Art