Jokes come hard and fast in Patrick Goddard’s exhibition of new work at Seventeen. Take the show’s title, ‘Real Estates’, which alludes both to working-class authenticity and property speculation. A drier humour is discernible upon entering the gallery through
a back-alley door, down a set of stairs into a UV-lit room, which the artist has titled RAW, spelt backwards (all works 2019). It recalls basement nightclubs in the gallery’s Dalston neighbourhood, the appearance of which marked the area’s conversion from working-class shopping district to night-time consumption zone.
There’s something brazen, too, about the way the floor, lain wall-to-wall with uneven bricks, compels visitors to walk clumsily through the exhibition, more or less ruling out affected posturing. The gallery’s notes suggest this brickwork is a deterrent used against the homeless in London, though it bears remarking that it’s actually typically used to impede cars or pedestrians; in fact, councils and landlords more regularly employ metal spikes to discourage rough sleepers. That the reality is more savage than what is imagined here seems more tragic than farcical.
The wisecracks keep coming in the exhibition’s second room. Leyton Kweff consists of a life-sized video of a man in the guise of an international art dealer/curator: rimmed spectacles, darted button-down shirt, slim chinos, neon sneakers. He is set in what appears to be a gallery opening: white wall behind him, bottle of lager by his side. His dancing, all hip thrusts, puckered lips and gun salutes, is cocksure enough to be embarrassing. This performance is soundtracked by a slow, rumbling bassline punctuated by rapid-fire hi-hats characteristic of contemporary hip-hop. If one strains a little, it becomes apparent that the song borrows a guitar riff and lyrics – barely detectable from the low-pitched vocals – from the Friends (1994–2004) theme tune, a detail foreshadowed in signage at the gallery entrance, styled in the programme’s signature angular font.
The song in question, written by The Rembrandts (get it?!), makes a mockery of the crass dealer/curator figure: ‘So no one told you life was gonna be this way / Your job’s a joke, you’re broke, your love life’s D.O.A …’ In contrast with the bouncy optimism of the original, Goddard’s sombre version reeks of irony. The discord between artistic autonomy and the reality of 21st-century urban life is confronted here with a bitter tongue planted in cheek. Goddard’s soundtrack also quotes from UK drill music – a genre usually referenced for its alleged links to gang violence and rarely for its aesthetic merits. Leyton Kweff refers either to a single by (SNR) LFace x S, a dance move, an assault – or all three. It stands here, I suppose, as a further signifier of pilfered authenticity, for real estates.
The oscillation between authenticity and self-parody is slammed over our head in ‘Ghost House’, a series of cyanotype prints hung throughout the gallery’s open-plan office. The prints are adorned with various illustrations: a tube of paint caught in a mousetrap; a man with ‘I crave the vitality of the past but all I got was this lousy T-shirt’ emblazoned across his top. The tension between the heroic artist and the precarious world he must negotiate is more delicately implied in the opening UV-lit room. Two low-placed projectors dimly illuminate black and white slideshows of animals, nocturnal city streets and a receding figure. Titled London Zoo 1 and London Zoo 2, their sentiment evokes the fragility of a discarded roll of film and stands in stark contrast to the jarring lighting and thumping bass pouring in from the next room. Goddard’s work sneers at the commercial art world no doubt; but, beneath all those layers of gloomy cynicism, a gravitational pull to that world persists.
Main image: Patrick Goddard, Leyton Kweff, 2019, HD video, LED screen, PA system. Courtesy: the artist and Seventeen, London
Paul Rekret teaches political theory at Richmond, the American International University, London, UK. His latest book, Down with Childhood: Pop Music and the Crisis of Innocence was published by Repeater in 2017.
First published in Issue 203