EXHIBITION: A State of Neutral Pleasure


A State of Neutral Pleasure: Gerard Byrne

When we think of art do we consider the effects we experience from it? In discussion I usually hear the word inspired but what of pleasure? Do we experience pleasure from what we see and hear and even possibly touch in art?

In Gerard Byrne’s exhibition at The Whitechapel Gallery we are invited to experience pleasure in the everyday, the normal.  Varied in its mediums various instillation's featuring videos and interviews are combined with more conventional photographs.

In the main room there are large playful instillation's showing various videos at changing times. They move from fixture to fixture allowing the audience to move in-between and catch each film whether purely visual or conversation based. I was watching a video of a man driving, just driving and the dashboard and window pane stood between us but there was no dialogue. I could hear in a video where an interview was taking place about the nature of being a man and artist. Even though I wasn’t watching the conversation based film I found that the two juxtaposed beautifully. And it allowed the public viewing the work to sometimes face each other moving from one piece to the other in the soft darkness and find what drew to what piece. I followed the visually interesting while some stood and listened to words being spoken.  And this is something that Byrne is interested in, how written words can have a ‘resonance beyond its original context and meaning’

The next room was my personal favourite. A collection of photographs of trees in the night time flooded with neon lights. It sounds like a fairly simplistic image but you feel illuminated and softened somehow in its presence. One image made me feel almost like I was underwater with its degrees of colour graduating through the image.

Again faced with more photographs images of a window pane room filled with luscious foliage and sunshine is a wonderfully calming image yet also quite erotic. The emptiness of the room with nature and light it gives a sense that anything is possible in this space. Carrying on there are various televisions installed with headphones with interviews. I went to the closest one to me and listened to a woman talking about her need for orgasms. Then a masculine man talks about his first homosexual encounter and another talk about S&M. There was something quite caricature about the video and it actually made me laugh. I’m not sure it was supposed to make me laugh but it was an instinctive response.

In the far corner of the room were a collection of images from America. Black and white there was nothing particularly extraordinary about them yet somehow the beauty in the ordinary was immense. It was a brilliant piece to end the exhibition with on my journey.

The differences in works here are obvious but they are connect by our experience of it whether confusion, distaste, inspiration or indeed, pleasure. An explorative and interesting exhibition.


January 17 – 8 March 2013

This exhibition is free