A Mirror to our Society: It All Comes Down at the Barbican

‘Although so much has been lost, new visions have risen from necessity’, said the creators of the Barbican and Guildhall’s new online exhibition, ‘It All Comes Down’. In an inspiring show of creativity, 13 young artists came together (digitally, of course) to create and curate an exhibition that reflects the state of our modern world. Their works treat the human perspective liberally; Annie-Lee, for example, focuses on the mundane and every day, while Vangelis Trichias explores European attitudes towards male nudity.

Brooke Cagle, Unsplash

Despite the broad spectrum and scale of topics this exhibition considers, it is strangely cohesive. A sense of impermanence, the uncanny and broken systems comes through in almost every one of the 70 works, hyper-connected in their online format. 

 

Utilising the fact that this exhibition had to be fully online, Becca Lynes presents in her section a video-piece that involves the ‘pairing of the romantic myth and technology’. The video is short but powerful, telling in 3.5 minutes the story of Lynes’ life as she grows up in an age of online media, closing on the strangely ominous words ‘I can be ur bf’ from a stranger online. Lynes titles the work ‘Becca Becomes A Real Girl; Chapter 1: True Love’s Kiss’, leaving a notable question mark over what comes next. In a comment under the video, she marks her interest in progressing the series through her ‘coming of rage’, as she, the ‘subject’, reaches a state of ‘sentience’.

 

Overlapping photomontage throughout the video plays with the impermanence that this exhibition as a whole explores, breaking it into constantly interruptive images and sounds. Chaotic images flashing over the screen become synonymous with real life, and are contrasted by the sleek, shiny effects that might represent the commercialisation and over- romanticisation of love, or teen romance. Through the bustling of images against each other, Lynes gives almost the sense of being packed into a sticky and overwhelming railway carriage. Bustling for room, the individual is overwhelmed by a mass of people exactly the same, yet each of course with a unique life story to tell. The modern world is crushing. The closeness that the viewer feels towards ‘Becca’, seeing her growing up, is in contention with this feeling that she represents merely one of many: Lynes herself says ‘I think it’s appropriate that I don’t have a true voice in this section. It leaves a sour taste.’. Through her personal account of the ending of childhood, Lynes is able to review society on a larger scale.

 

On the opposite end of this exhibition’s scale is Sneha Alexander’s series of lino prints, made by ‘manipulating an abstract shape’ and collated in a video with background sounds from the countryside. The monochrome prints play with light and dark, movement, natural form and reflection. Alexander evidently takes on the task of conveying impermanence in modern society through focusing on the environment that continues to shift through the seasons, regardless of human change. By intertwining faces, hands and legs in the prints, however, people grow into the natural surroundings and become a part of their change. The lasting image from this series is the wooden frame that suspends four of Alexander’s prints, shifting and flickering in the sunlight and wind that hits them. As opposed to a stilted, quiet gallery space, Alexander’s work, like that of her peers, gains beautiful movement from its digital possibilities.

Alexander’s desire to convey ‘immediate sensations of place, story and symbolism’ comes across in the four panelled, suspended prints, that have a sense of progression in the gaps between them. As opposed to Lynes’ overlapping images, these prints have space to breathe and fluctuate, perhaps showing the slow change that happens in nature in contrast to the fast change of human life. Even as this exhibition spans hugely different areas of life, there is a persistent sense of cohesion between works, a credit to the teamwork of these young artists.

 

Emerging from a very difficult time, this exhibition celebrates, condemns, and challenges the state of the modern world. Exploring the idea that ‘nothing lasts forever’, the artists use their personal experiences to consider impermanence. As the Barbican moves forward into its ‘next phase’ of ‘major renewal’ in advance of its upcoming 40th anniversary, this exhibition feels like a beginning for the emerging generation of artists.

 

To see the exhibition for yourself, visit https://itallcomesdown.com/Home  

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