Saturday, 2 June 2012

Mike Ballard I.D.S.T

Block 336
336 Brixton Road, London
1 - 29 June 2012
All photos NoLionsInEngland

Mike Ballard's second solo show this year, I.D.S.T opened in Brixton last night.

 The venue is a non descript utilitarian basement concrete box, perhaps a bit too labyrinthine to be described as a plain box, various rooms, slots and box rooms house a varied collection of Ballard’s lastest photograph collage and film experiences.  The centrepiece is a vast low ceilinged room roughly the size of a tennis court with 5 very large looping film projections playing on the walls of three sides.  The films are essentially process documentation of the creation of a painting.  It seems that in each one Ballard is studying the process of paint explosion, created by cracking open a spray can of paint on four spikes.  Each of the films bursts into life as the can erupts, then the paint is captured dribbling across coloured backgrounds, an abstract dynamic colour discharge across the screen. Each of the slow drips, dribbles and runs are mesmerising to watch, trance alert – no drugs necessary.  We love colour! 

The end result, the accidental by-product  of the hours of filming is a gorgeous glossy abstract splatter filled canvas displayed outside the film cave.

Films frequently crop up in the Ballard output but this is a long distance from the scratchy over-dubbed retro-future black and white sci fi edits seen before.    After some 15 to 20 minutes in the film area emerging into the comparative light and bustling throng of the crowd taking in the rest of the installations was a stimulating shock to the senses.

 Also featuring in the show are a set of photograph collage light boxes and the kinetic lightbox (circular thing on the floor) recently seen at Ballard’s Arch 402 show,  these photos below come from that previous show, the installation at Block 336 benefits from compactness and proximity which makes them relate better to eachother than as shown at Arch 402.

 (Not all these lightboxes are in the I.D.S.T show)

Also making a return are a trio of photographic paint collages on aluminium,

 Astro Traveller Far Rockaway; Astro Traveller Between Patterson and Benson

 The I.D.S.T in the show title is the acronym for If Destroyed Still True, its addition to a piece of graffiti abuse giving the slur a longevity beyond the mere existence of the visible writing.  The allusion is to the impermanence of the moment of creation in the fluid paint transitioning into end product, Ballard’s film brings about a recycling of those moments in the creation of his New Instruction painting, lending that fleeting point in time the potential for an infinite existence, he has the potential to recall those moments and recreate them at whim and for ever.  That’s what Graffoto reckons anyway.

 This show brings together his collage light box units, chromoprint photographs and his films in a more coherent collection that anything we have seen in the past couple of years.  There is none of the wall/ceiling/floor painted illusion room stuff that he does so well (e.g. Dalston garage, 2008) which neatly swerves the “one-trick-pony” issue.  Yet the film zone is a beautifully colourful, disorientating and immersive multi-coloured cinematic experience.

PS - ARTIST'S TALK, Fri 6 Jul 2012, feat Hall Of Mirrors

Last night (FRI 6th July, 2012) Graffoto joined a gratifyingly large standing room only crowd at Block 336 for an artist talk by Mike Ballard [, interrogated by Alex Daw].  Seems a good excuse to supplement our own guesses above with lies and half-truths from the artist's own mouth, not to mention better photos that weren't taken leaning against pillars and people.

Going back about 7 years, Ballard moved beyond his 20 year pure letterform practise into a broader fine/conceptual art direction including mashed up video making inspired by Stan Brakage.  In a 2006 video of a serpentine spluttering paint line filmed by a cam mounted on a spraycan, the focus is on the dynamic jet of spray and the surface transformation at the impact point, this is very much a primordial ancestor which has evolved into the the IDST installation.

Ballard's fascination is not just with the painting and not specially with the process, it's just the paint itself.  Random uncontrolled paint, released explosively from the pressure cylinder of the spray can and distributing itself according to the brutal laws of nature.

Its not just the motion, explosion and dribbling that Ballard wants to experience, there is the sound too, the sound of the can puncturing on the nails, the hiss of the paint propellant being released from the can and the splatter and drip of the paint hitting the canvas surface.

The physical characteristics of the space where the films are showing touched a an ancient autobiographical note for Ballard.  He grew up in a small village in the remote provinces and in his words, "it's hard to be prolific all-city when you are the only graffiti vandal in a small village" but the limit of the 13 year old's world was a rail track which passed through one of those cavernous box like tunnels full of pillars and this was where the delinquent Ballard started out doing graff.  This happy hidden practise ground was referenced in Ballard's "All of Everything" show a couple of years ago and the Block 336 space has a strong echo of that ancient spot.

The Cutting

The Cutting, detail from The All Of Everything Show, 2010


Hall Of Mirrors v. Mike Ballard, IDST film installation

The origins of the three chromotagraphic prints became clearer (as in, this time I can remember what he said).  Another Ballard film process involved directly painting on and scratching a super 8 compilation of fast moving fast moving cuts, this "spoke" to Ballard by drawing his attention to invidiual frames which got stuck in the projector, offering themselves up for longer scrutiny. Ballard got the message and created the Astro Traveller Far Rockaway images from those frames.

The light box collages are entirely found and appropriated internet images, distorting scale and deliberately mixing hi res with very poor quality pixellated images, dancing around Ballard's long cherished themes involving mysticism, hip hop, Sun Ra, Ramellzeee, mysticisim, tunnels.

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