Beatriz Olabarrieta

MOT International, London


Beatriz Olabarrieta, 'Cosmic Clap', 2015, exhibition view

Beatriz Olabarrieta, 'Cosmic Clap', 2015, exhibition view

Sleeve-tugging ‘look-at-me-listen-to-me’ distractions interrupt the would-be cool minimalism of Beatriz Olabarrieta’s exhibition ‘Cosmic Clap’. Aural and visual ticks, twangs, boings and claps, vying for attention, seemed to suggest the impossibility of unbroken contemplation.

The most incessant and endearing of these distractions occurs in White Floor Blanket for Projectors Brain Nostalgic (all works 2015). In one of three overlapping videos screened at floor level, an empty speech balloon jigs up and down like an excitable child with nothing, anything and everything to tell. Turned 45 degrees, the tail of the balloon resembles a nose. (Pareidolia – the perception of familiar pattern, often the form of a face, where there is none – recurs in Olabarrieta’s work). The anthropomorphized balloon seemed to egg-on the wayward marbles in its fellow videos, which refuse to stay still – projected onto flat surfaces with diagrammatic marking as if for play or educational purposes. In one video, a line drawing, perhaps of a cuboid, resembles a musical stave with the rolling marbles, like crotchets, scoring a chance melody. The sense of playfulness extends to the projectors set on the floor under their ‘blanket’ – a large rectangular sheet of pristine white laminate. Four clean slits (reminiscent of Lucio Fontana’s slashed canvases) reveal glimpses of the projectors crouched beneath, as if engaged in an inept game of hide-and-seek.

Elementary, pre-verbal modes of learning through play were evoked by Olabarrieta’s sculptural forms: a pared-down lexicon of straight lines and curves suggests the basic ‘building blocks of text’. In Wall Lamp Nose Quiet a narrow strip, cut from but still umbilically attached to its sheet of laminate, curves away from the floor to reach an illuminated, slightly over-sized light bulb on the wall. The bulb, in turn, seems to draw its energy from the rectangle of tube lights on the gallery ceiling: only two of the eight tubes, furthest from the bulb, remain illuminated. Its black cable inversely mirrors the curve of the laminate strip to form an ‘s’, which stretches from floor to ceiling.

The open-endedness of Olabarrieta’s work, its scope for infinite permutation and resistance to the finality of crossed ‘t’s and dotted ‘i’s (though dots and horizontals were abundant here), seems conducive to team work, so it is perhaps unsuprising that the artist worked with two collaborators on this show. The audio element of Wall Blue Note Speaker Unsure on Wheels was made in partnership with writer and singer, Harriet Pittard (Zoee), and comprises voices engaged in pronunciation exercises. Rudimentary vocal sounds are carefully and laboriously repeated: ‘Duh. Duh. Drrah. Drrah. Neung. Neung.’ Snippets of unintelligible language (to me, at least) served as reminders of the gap between word and meaning – the arbitrary nature of deep-seated associations and connections. The earnestness of these lingual efforts is countered with cartoon-like twangs and boings, while snatches of piano lounge music offer relaxed interludes between exertions. Bright glissandos, jingles and chimes, like video-game sounds, indicate points of departure – a move to the next level, a change in direction or, perhaps, beginning again.

Writer and curator Gareth Bell-Jones put some of the show’s linguistic components back together to produce a series of 12 texts, each named after a type of light bulb. Printed on plain A4 paper, the texts were slotted and stuffed into the cut-out crannies of Wall Yellow Lamp Story Folder Fizzy – another sheet of laminate, mounted on the wall and watched over by two more eye-like light bulbs. Jones’s texts cast the show as a kind of language machine, offering limitless possibilities for construction and deconstruction. ‘Cosmic Clap’ becomes its own mischievous agent, ready to follow distractions wherever they may lead.

Linda Taylor is an artist and writer based in the UK. She won the Frieze Writer's Prize in 2014.

Issue 176

First published in Issue 176

Jan – Feb 2016

Most Read

The rapper and artist have thoughts about originality in art; Melania Trump tries graphic design – all the latest...
The dilapidated Nissen hut from which Rachel Whiteread will take a cast
Yorkshire residents complain that the concrete sculpture of a ‘Nissen hut’ will attract excrement, vandalism and litter
Poul Erik Tøjner pays tribute to Denmark’s most important artist since Asger Jorn
Toyin Ojih Odutola’s portraits of a fictional aristocratic Nigerian family push toward an expanded definition...
Photographer Dragana Jurisic says her account was deactivated after she uploaded an artwork depicting a partially naked...
In further news: open letter protests all-male shortlist for BelgianArtPrize; Arts Council of Ireland issues...
From Sol Calero’s playful clichés of Latin America to an homage to British modernist architect Alison Smithson
Everybody’s favourite underpaid, over-educated, raven-haired art critic, Rhonda Lieberman, is as relevant as ever
‘Prize & Prejudice’ at London's UCL Art Museum is a bittersweet celebration of female talent
The curators want to rectify the biennale’s ‘failure to question the hetero-normative production of space’; ‘poppers...
A fragment of the brutalist Robin Hood Gardens will go on show at the Venice Architecture Biennale
‘Women's role in shaping the history of contemporary art is being reappraised’
Three shows in Ireland celebrate the legendary polymath, artist and author of Inside the White Cube
The legendary performance artists will partner up again to detail their tumultuous relationship in a new book
An open letter signed by over 100 leading artists including 15 Turner prize-winners says that new UK education policy...
Naturists triumph at art gallery; soothing students with colouring books; Kanye’s architectural firm: your dose of art...
Avengers: Infinity War confirms the domination of mass culture by the franchise: what ever happened to narrative...
The agency’s founder talks about warfare in the age of post truth, deconstructing images and holding states and...
From hobnobbing with Oprah to championing new art centres, millennial crown prince Mohammed bin Salman is following a...
A juror for the award last year, Dan Fox on why the Turner Prize is and always will be political (whatever that means)
The argument that ancestral connection offers a natural grasp of the complex histories and aesthetics of African art is...
One of most iconic and controversial writers of the past 40 years, Tom Wolfe discusses writing, art and intellectual...

Latest Magazines

frieze magazine

March 2018

frieze magazine

April 2018

frieze magazine

May 2018