Exhibition of the month: Softcore

A group multimedia show that dares to critique itself

Softcore is a group exhibition that tackles the niggling contradiction that art foisted upon itself more than 100 years ago when the Italian Filippo Tommaso Marinetti put the final full stop on his rancorous tirade against life as it was. In the document that came to be known as the Futurist Manifesto, Marinetti laid out, in ten bellicose points, how art could usher in the world as it should be.

From that moment on, it has not been enough for art to simply be as ‘pretty as a picture’: a humble appeal to a monarch’s vanity or an archbishop’s religious fervour; an earnest serenade to nature, or a woman’s bosom. No – henceforth, the duty of art was to point its finger, like a jilted mistress, at what it saw as being wrong with the world. It must critique and intervene. It must change the world, cleanse it of its misery and inequity and leave it as unsullied as a newborn baby’s bottom.

But how can it perform this function when art, which is sold for eye-watering sums, is part of the very system that has led to the social injustices that it purports to critique? When confronted with this shameful truth, Art, personified with a capital ‘A’, has scampered away with nary a peep of protest. Art has never been a jilted mistress; it is a common whore.

Softcore strips away this concealed contradiction and bravely looks itself in the mirror, warts and all. With mischief and irony, the mishmash of installation and sculpture, video and new media that makes up the group show dares to critique itself.

Moscow-based Roma Mokrov’s garish wedding photos, taken when the artist worked as a wedding photographer, lay bare the way art places itself on a pedestal simply by calling itself ‘art’. In a series of ten GIF files showing mundane moments from the everyday lives of the hutong inhabitants surrounding Intelligentsia Gallery, Beijing-based duo Aspartime question whether the very existence of the gallery, and the bespectacled intelligentsia it brings into their neighbourhood, is a forceful appropriation of the residents’ space that threatens to usurp the very lives it fetishises.

Alessandro Rolandi’s ‘Another History’ sums up the argument of the entire exhibition in a single, simple object: a rifle, painted over with bold, childlike primary colours that shoots a bouquet of flowers. By turning the gun on itself, so to speak, perhaps art really can be a critique of the world we live in, and in doing so, create something beautiful.

Softcore: Subverted Superstructure and the Systematic Sublime is at the Intelligentsia Gallery until Sunday 7. See event listing for details.
  • 4 out of 5 stars