Beginning to Slip - Mimi Hope and Ben Galyas @ Roland Ross
In the exhibition Beginning to Slip, Mimi Hope and Ben Galyas’ digitised 35mm film is being screened, not in the pristine gallery, but outside in the shed. The wooden lean-too structure imparts a decidedly intimate setting, wherein any visitor must acclimatise to the mould and spiders filling the rafters; and take in the walls punctuated by dispersed cracks of light. This consequential ambience and strange territory go some way to feeling like an act of solidarity with the origination and temporary staging of the free parties of which the collected works of the exhibition take inspiration from; the liberation of private space, for a brief period of time, to be returned after the event, forever altered. The mechanic abruptness that comes from working with analogue film (adjusted to fit into a digital age) lends a romantic authenticity to the artists’ surveying of the land’s genealogies; appearing as a considered reminiscence, looking back in order to move forward and connect with the histories contained within the locality.
A rattling, buzzing score pulsates beneath the footage, shot by the artists at Castle Morton Common, a location used for free parties in the early nineties. The music, provided by Rory Salter a.k.a Malvern Brume, laces the work with a disquieting tone. This unnerving and yet eerily familiar beat, combined with the quotidian nature of the scenic imagery on screen highlights a tone of nostalgia that permeates the rest of the works on display. The featured visual mesh of greens, blues and browns seen on screen could really be any stretch of English countryside, and the banality of its image, sound and subject combines into this filmic non-place, inviting the viewer to imbue the work with their own personal subjectivities.
Moving into the gallery, three large-scale muted silkscreen prints dominate the entrance to the space. Tangerine Dream, Ecko Pink, and Blue Clover, are all based on an image of an altered acid house party flyer. The image was taken from an archive collated by the artists after the UK government enacted the The Police, Crime, Sentencing, and Courts Bill, a piece of legislation that further inhibited the UK public’s right to free assembly, after a previous ruling in 1994 brought an end to the outdoor raves and parties of ‘the second summer of love’, which occurred across the UK and defined the Acid House scene.
Impeccably presented, the subdued images appear erased almost to the point of illegibility. The bleached bone white of the silkscreened paper hides behind these gestural pools of yellows, magentas, and blues – there is a sketch of a landscape that’s discernible amongst an intended lack of visibility. The abstraction of the original image, from mass-produced flyer to diaphanous colour field painting, like the ever-present nature of the imagery in the exhibited film, feels uncanny, akin to the familiarity of memory or pure emotion. Free from any discernible context, there is a palpable idea of euphoria and ecstasy that the collected works attest to.
The understated placement and material form of the sculpture Glow Stick, Baton, is perhaps most emblematic of the differing forms of erasure present throughout Beginning to Slip. In aspect, it disconcertingly appears that a glowstick has been enrobed in bronze, and through this material transformation the object appears more akin to a stylised police officers’ weapon, rather than an accessory to revelry. The work speaks to the violence, indirect or otherwise that comes from a state’s denial of similar histories being able to unfold, but, moreover, the object’s recontextualisation typifies the ephemerality and malleability of these histories, a sentiment that is felt and mirrored across this complex exhibition.