HOUSE Festival animates Brighton streets with contemporary art this May

By Mark Sheerin | 08 May 2013

HOUSE 2013, various venues, Brighton, until May 26 2013

Colour photo of a monumental collage in a seafront pavilion
David Wightman, Hero (2013), installation view© David Wightman
This year’s HOUSE festival is the cruellest yet, as five compelling pieces of work remind Brightonians just what they’re missing out on all year round. The city may be short of gallery space, but as far as the month of May is concerned, there is no shortage of art.

The showpiece, in a notable showhome, is by German artist Mariele Neudecker. Her three-storey show, a co-commission with Brighton Festival, makes radical use of the under-renovation Regency Townhouse with an array of film installations, photography and a sculptural ice berg.

Neudecker has travelled the world to bring her exhibtion back to Sussex. Ice from Greenland, sun from the Azores and Australia and deep sea footage from the South West Indian Ocean are all to be found in this component of the festival. The latter looks especially good in a derelict basement.

Confusingly, none of the other pieces in HOUSE appear to have any relation to domestic space. One piece nearby is in a shipping container, other pieces are in empty pavilion areas near the Palace Pier and the final site is a churchyard behind Brighton’s imposing Saint Peter’s.

Colour photo of a film projected into the interior of a packing crate
Emma Critchley, Aria (2013), installation view© Emma Critchley
But with its sub-aquatic theme, Emma Critchley’s work in the seafront crate does at least relate to Neudecker. Step inside and visitors will find themselves submerged poolside as a free diver glides around to a soprano soundtrack. Critchley has flipped the film upside down to dizzying effect.

Meanwhile, two more satellite works sit on the pierside terraces. A picture postcard landscape is rendered in textured wallpaper cut and mounted with machine-like precision. David Wightman’s idyllic scenes are in keeping with the many landscapes on sale in the city’s annual Open Houses.

Next door, Andrew Kotting turns a near fatal bike crash into a piece about his recovery. With the help of photographer Anonymous Bosch, he sits for a number of pinhole camera portraits and visits caves in Hastings which substitute for a Pyrenees trip he was planning to make before the accident.

Another crash is in evidence in a churchyard on the main approach to the sea front. Here, passers-by will stumble upon a timber and mylar airship which is frozen in a moment of its own disintegration. It’s such an unlikely sight, we may be lucky to get through May without a pile up on the A23.

The connecting strands are not obvious, nor need they be. If you stumble upon these pieces, they should engage you on their own merits. The Critchley piece is especially well placed to draw crowds.

But let’s be clear, a shipping container is not a house. This homespun festival may need a new remit.

  • HOUSE Festival runs until May 26 2013. See the festival website for more details.

Visit Mark Sheerin's contemporary art blog and follow him on Twitter.
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