Friday 25 January – Sunday 29 March
Simon Martin’s work is in the permanent collections of Tate, and the Dallas Museum of Art amongst other international institutions. His works have been described by the New York Times as “masterpiece[s] of poetic discretion”. His video works are often densely crafted stories about the unexpected lives of objects. His works are united by an inquisitive and quarrelsome attitude to the material world that surrounds us. Over the last decade, Martin has been increasingly interested in the material qualities also of seemingly immaterial things – of digital video, of sound itself, and as here – an object that appears entirely virtual.
The work began when the artist bought a Japanese mask that he could not make any judgements about. The mask was beautiful, but could have been either a priceless antique worthy of a museum or a worthless reproduction. It became obvious to Martin that our understanding of, and sympathy for objects, is culturally specific: their place in an imagined hierarchy of things determines our own love for them. At the same time, Martin became interested in addressing digital artefacts as his material. After all, virtual things have their own materiality and particular character, but are far more ‘free’ than their real- world counterparts. They are seldom subject to the same hierarchies as ordinary commodities, being rarely associated with the social status of their owners, or indeed ‘owned’ in the same way at all. Martin’s short video work brings his Japanese mask to life by questioning whether it is real or virtual; an object of poetic grace or a prosaic commonplace. By ‘bringing it to life’, he asks what we feel about it.