One of the joys of patronising the Arnolfini, Bristol’s contemporary arts centre, is that I get some glorious emails advertising new exhibitions.
This one, heralding Kirstine Roepstorff’s A Handful of Once, ticks almost every box:
At first glance Kirstine Roepstorff’s intricate and ornamental collages belie their more serious subject. Her baroque photo-montage combines geometric shapes, glitter, jewellery and gems with lush tropical landscapes and floral motifs. National Geographic images of birds, fish and mammals are juxtaposed with dancers and sports people, politicians and protesters. Much of the imagery is drawn from newspapers and magazines - the stuff of ‘current affairs’.
By removing the material from its original context and reordering it within this other space, she performs a surprisingly powerful, political action addressing issues as diverse as the ‘War on Terror’, the global distribution of wealth and contemporary gender politics. Asking, “Who decides who decides?” her work questions the authority, identity and power of the individuals and organisations responsible for the particular reality we experience and the ways in which meaning is constructed.
Absurd title? Check!
Juxtapositioning? Check! (‘Juxtaposition’ is the art word for arbitrarily putting any two different things next to each other)
‘War on Terror’ in scare quotes? Check!
Reality is ‘particular’? Check!
Preconceptions about gender roles challenged? Check! (though I’m not sure who the hell still has any unchallenged preconceptions about gender left. Maybe the Bulgarians. The Bulgarians are notorious for not spending enough time visiting art galleries for a good preconception-questioning, poor sods).
Sadly, casual sacreligious insults appear to be missing, but A Handful of Once does sound like it has the important “a child could do that” factor in abundance, given that Kirstine uses that correctly-underrated art form, the glitter, glue and magazine cut-out collage.
I'll probably go and look at it tonight.