Corin Sworn's Illusion of Order

The artist's tightly choreographed show about surveillance culture at Koppe Astner, Glasgow

I’m standing next to a small wall-mounted speaker, looking through a large circular hole cut in a plasterboard wall and watching a film of dancers moving through the same gallery space I’m occupying. As I take in the scene there are many things that go through my mind. The hole and another rectangular floor-to-ceiling slice in a second wall can’t help but conjure thoughts of Gordon Matta-Clark’s intersected buildings; the gentle but purposeful movements of the dancers are reminiscent of the contemporary dance of Siobhan Davies; the glitchy, clattering drum sounds that accompany the filmed sawing of the walls recall the beats of alt-electronica duo Autechre. 

Mostly, though, the surveillance camera-style footage and the sense of being an unseen observer of other people’s movements make me think of the early days of the ‘reality’ TV show Big Brother (the show’s UK debut was in 2000) and, in particular, the uneasy feeling that to watch meant being complicit in the game of control and manipulation playing out on the screen. Back then though, the idea of the domestic/private realm being a site of public scrutiny and entertainment was a novelty rather than the mundane reality it is now; Corin Sworn’s tightly choreographed show has more on its mind than the tired tropes of TV entertainment formats or social media narcissism.

corin_sworn_there_is_movement_2018_-_still._courtesy_of_the_artist_and_koppe_astner_glasgow.jpg

Corin Sworn, There is Movement, 2018. Courtesy:  the artist and Koppe Astner, Glasgow

‘WORK HOUSE’ is the final exhibition to be staged in Koppe Astner’s current space before it is vacated prior to demolition – a fact which makes the artist’s wall wrecking neatly appropriate. The title is loaded with associations: the Victorian workhouse with its harsh living conditions and social stigma; the self-employed homeworker; the unpaid labour of housework. Implicit in all is a meeting of public and private worlds.

In order to view the exhibition in full, like the dancers in the video I have to pass through the hole in the wall, moving from the main space into a series of three smaller sections. Whitewashed month-to-view wall calendars (Decision Fatigue III; Decision Fatigue IV, all works 2018) and perfumed antibacterial gel in stainless steel wall dispensers (Coriander-Fennel; Tangerine-Ginger) add to a feeling of interrupted home life. What links these sculptural elements and the film – part of the audio-visual installation There Is Movement, which also includes four speakers around the sub-divided gallery space – is the notion of order, of how we attempt to structure the messy, inherently chaotic business of life. From pleasantly smelling soaps trying to keep dirt and germs at bay to dancers interrupted by exuberant young children in bright colours and superhero costumes, the disconnect between a desire for control and what really happens in life is highlighted. These interventions feel like acts of release, counterpoints to the tension created by the clinical, starkly monochrome presentation.

corin_sworn_there_is_movement_2018_-_still._courtesy_of_the_artist_and_koppe_astner_glasgow_2.jpg

Corin Sworn, There is Movement, 2018. Courtesy:  the artist and Koppe Astner, Glasgow

A two-sided A4 hand-out that accompanies the show features a poem by the Glasgow writer RW Paterson. Titled Room Sensed Motion, it stresses the illusion of order that surveillance culture brings – in this instance in the form of cameras and motion sensors in a family home, a narrative echoed in the piece Hello!, a small, indoor security camera attached to the wall. The few lines of accompanying exhibition text talk of ‘personal management technologies’ and our eager but often flawed embracing of tech solutions as we try to exert some kind of influence over our time-poor lives. This need for organization, Sworn suggests, can ultimately distance us from the very things we seek to cherish and protect. In ‘WORK HOUSE’ it’s not state surveillance we should be wary of – it’s our own Big Brother impulse.

Main image: Corin Sworn, ‘WORK HOUSE’, 2018, installation view, Koppe Astner, Glasgow. Courtesy: the artist and Koppe Astner, Glasgow

Chris Sharratt is a freelance writer and editor based in Glasgow. 

Most Read

Nods to the game in World Cup celebrations show how dance has gone viral – but unwittingly instrumentalized for...
‘You can’t reason with him but you can ridicule him’ – lightweight as it is, Trump Baby is a win for art as a...
Anderson and partner Juman Malouf are sorting through the treasures of the celebrated Kunsthistorisches Museum for...
From Capote to Basquiat, the pop artist’s glittering ‘visual diary’ of the last years of his life is seen for the first...
‘When I opened Monika Sprüth Galerie, only very few German gallerists represented women artists’
Can a ragtag cluster of artists, curators and critics really push back against our ‘bare’ art world?
In further news: German government buys Giambologna at the eleventh hour; LACMA’s new expansion delayed
Gucci and Frieze present film number two in the Second Summer of Love series, focusing on the history of acid house
Judges described the gallery’s GBP£20 million redevelopment by Jamie Fobert Architects as ‘deeply intelligent’ and a ‘...
Is the lack of social mobility in the arts due to a self-congratulatory conviction that the sector represents the...
The controversial intellectual suggests art would be better done at home – she should be careful what she wishes for
Previously unheard music on Both Directions At Once includes blues as imposing as the saxophonist would ever record
In further news: Macron reconsiders artist residencies; British Council accused of censorship; V&A to host largest...
In our devotion to computation and its predictive capabilities are we rushing blindly towards our own demise?
Arts subjects are increasingly marginalized in the UK curriculum – but the controversial intellectual suggests art is...
An exhibition of performances at Foksal Gallery Foundation, Warsaw, unfolds the rituals of sexual encounters
An art historian explains what the Carters’s takeover of the Paris museum says about art, race and power
Artist Andrea Fraser’s 2016 in Museums, Money and Politics lifts the lid on US museum board members and...
The Ruhrtriennale arts festival disinvited the Scottish hip-hop trio for their pro-Palestinian politics, then u-turned
The Baltimore’s director on why correcting the art historical canon is not only right but urgent for museums to remain...
Serpentine swimmers complain about Christo’s floating pyramid; and Hermitage’s psychic cat is a World Cup oracle: the...
The largest mural in Europe by the artist has been hidden for 30 years in an old storage depot – until now
Alumni Martin Boyce, Karla Black, Duncan Campbell and Ciara Phillips on the past and future of Charles Rennie...
In further news: po-mo architecture in the UK gets heritage status; Kassel to buy Olu Oguibe’s monument to refugees
The frieze columnist's first novel is an homage to, and embodiment of, the late, great Kathy Acker
60 years after the celebrated Brutalist architect fell foul of local authorities, a Berlin Unité d’Habitation apartment...
The British artist and Turner Prize winner is taking on the gun advocacy group at a time of renewed debate around arms...
The central thrust of the exhibition positions Sicily as the fulcrum of geopolitical conflicts over migration, trade,...
The Carters’s museum takeover powers through art history’s greatest hits – with a serious message about how the canon...
The 20-metre-high Mastaba finally realizes the artist and his late wife Jeanne-Claude’s design
‘What is being exhibited at Manifesta, above all, is Palermo itself’
With the 12th edition of the itinerant European biennial opening in Palermo, what do local artists, curators and...
In the age of Brexit, why Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s pledge to return the ‘stolen’ Parthenon marbles has never been...
The curators seem set to ask, ‘how civilized is the world’s current state of affairs?’
US true crime series Unsolved takes two formative pop cultural events to explore their concealed human stories and...

On View

Latest Magazines

frieze magazine

April 2018

frieze magazine

May 2018

frieze magazine

June - August 2018