In the current climate, where we are so saturated with images and logos and brands, it’s really important to be able to critique this current style before we start to take it as the norm. Seize Projects are pulling us into this frame of mind with their new exhibition, currently on display at Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun. Sell Out, twinned with April’s earlier show Skin Deep, showcases a select group of artists from across the country, using digital methods as well as sculpture, video and installation, to highlight and analyse our complex relationship with iconography.
Whether it’s Jeremy Scott’s use of the McDonald’s golden arches during his time at Moschino, or the indoor market putting fake Chanel logos onto phone cases, we are immersed in a world where the graphic is God. But where do we draw the line that separates pastiche and simple forgery? The eighteen artists featured in Sell Out are here to explore this realm of borrowing, suggesting and plain old stealing icons and emblems. Is it stealing, or is it in fact appropriation, in the style of Andy Warhol, Thierry Guetta et al? Should we even take this into account at all when arguing the importance of a work of art at face value?
Artists including Mark Martin, Jacob Watmore and Anya Stewart-Maggs, employ video and audio installation to expose us to everyday scenarios undercut with unsettling nuances that take us from a place of familiarity to the unknown in a very short space of time. Similarly, Adeeb Ashfaq and Luke Nairn use juxtaposition of natural and very unnatural objects to heighten the surrealism and idea of what it is to be recognised, to be cliché. To be iconic, are we also running the risk of being cliché, or is the overexposure overridden by the reputation? Do we smile when we see a Burger King sign in the middle of the countryside, or are we horrified? Or are we both?
The fact that the exhibition is taking place in one of Leeds’ most successful cooperatives lends itself well to the nature of the art itself, where collaborative efforts allow for this work to exist. The artists come from across the UK, and across the spectrum in terms of discipline and background yet are united in bringing thought and discussion to audiences. Albeit a small venue, the gallery is packed with ideas and concepts that are intriguing if not fully realised. Some of the works are thought-provoking, yet possibly not in the way that was intended.
The work is very much from a young set of artists; these are people who have been entrenched into the philosophy that brand names are better and icons are forever, which although it is possible that they will be recognised, much like the chevrons on a Marlboro cigarette packet or the Adidas trefoil, they won’t be socially relevant in decades time. What is the shelf life of this art? But, a thought that comes to mind throughout this exhibition, does it matter? Does the fact that these artists have used someone else’s work to voice their own ideas matter? This is up to you, as viewers of this work and as citizens of the culture of which this exhibition is a product.
Sell Out is the final exhibition of Seize Project’s three-month residency at Set the Controls, but will hopefully not be the last to provoke thought and opinion in this exciting venue.
The exhibition is running until 20th May. To book an appointment, email [email protected].