Paul Rooney's Bellevue puts madness into research with text and films at Exeter Spacex

By Mark Sheerin | 19 October 2010
Film still which shows a group of people round a conference table regarding a wild-looking figure on screen
Paul Rooney: Bellevue, Courtesy: the artist© Paul Rooney
Exhibition: Paul Rooney – Bellevue, Spacex, Exeter, until November 27 2010

Visitors to this show may find themselves in a similar position to the focus group in Paul Rooney's film, Bellevue. To consider this art is to process madness.

The focus group in question are dealing with the delusional thoughts of an alcoholic jazz musician from the pages of Malcolm Lowry's novella, Lunar Caustic. It is up to them to decide whether his ramblings can be used in an ad campaign.

But taken out of the context of New York asylum Bellevue and placed in a conference room in Yorkshire stately home Harewood House, anything may be possible.

Mad texts crop up throughout the show at Spacex. In Letters That Rot a tree speaks of its pain at being chopped down by a postman called Franz. Its narrative is projected onto the wall from a sculptural pile of logs.

Small Talk is a two-channel film in which the subtitles take on a life of their own. The scene is an unpopulated petrol station but a discussion between the two screens ranges from favourite fonts to French films.

Finally, a call centre worker recounts a series of tales to an answering machine in an audio work called Words and Silence. Like trees, and subtitles, such workers do not usually get to speak for themselves.

In each case Rooney breaks with a very rational convention. It is up to us how we might use the effects.

Open 10am-5pm Tuesday-Saturday. Admission free.

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