Ami Clarke

recent reviews and press:


PART TWO: Obscured Exchange

A.P.T Gallery, Creekside, Deptford
30 August - 22 September 2013

Reviewed by: Sharon Mangion »

Currently showing at the A.P.T Gallery, Creekside is the second part of three exhibitions that taken together give a triangulated view on the experience of viewing art. Situated between Overt Exchange and Oblique Exchange, Obscured Exchange is an interesting exercise in testing how far the meaning of an artwork can be disarticulated. 

There are several strategies at work here: concealment, misdirection, degradation of the image, fragmentation, to name just a few. 

The more interesting works for me though were Ami Clarke’s Data Pool (II) and (III) films where she plays with the temporal ordering of words and image. If we think about the way our understanding is synthesised in time by linking a series of perceptions to form a somewhat illusory whole image, here word and image interfere with each other in a kind of ontological loop so that the identity of a thing is never fully realised.              

Sam Knowles’ The Rudiments of Adam also, is a wonderful critique on the classical philosophy of Descartes. A needle piercing the plaster cast eye is a linguistic play on the pineal axis where the mind and body are supposed to interact. It is a poke in the eye, so to speak, for dualist analytic philosophy. It reminded me purposively I’m sure, of what may be an apocryphal story, about Descartes’ head and forefinger being removed when his body was interred in France. Important indicators of mind and body as they both are, the mystery is where did they go?

On the other hand the concrete embodied experience of Aristotle is challenged by the use of digital technologies in much of the work. For example, the gestural mark making of abstract expressionism is diluted of any sense of communicated selfhood by the digital process in Liz Elton’s Washed 1 Duration 1 Hour and 30 minutes.  

The tactile quality of Bill Leslie’s ceramic sculptures is similarly distanced from the hand in The Allure of the Flesh and Things Being Themselves. Casting them in digital photography and film gives them a virtual reality that is then offset in The Faces of Things.  Here we see the scale of the small ceramics in actual space. 

Moving between media like this is perhaps meant to heighten the object’s opacity or maybe imply that it conceals more than it shows. While other works like Heather Ross’ Things to Come, where she has embedded drawing inside film and film inside drawing, there is no object as such.  She gives us edges and folds that allude to nothing and conceal everything; her images just keep moving forwards in time.  

Mia Taylor’s elliptical sculptures also move in and out of surfaces, twining memories that are historical but could be personal.   There is a sense of place and visitation but also of gothic presence in her imagery.

I also liked Nick Bailey’s electrical circuitry and enclosure No – where a simple objection will do why say anything else?  His Developing Assumptions, also,eerily anthropomorphic: just a red winking light in a small black box, sitting on top a plinth, with an on/off electrical switch.  I was tempted to turn it off. 

His works beg a question.  Is an art object a cypher for meaning waiting to be decoded?  If the answer is no, we might ask where the sense of agency can be located once deconstructive philosophy has done its work? 

Writer detail:

I am an artist and writer living in London.|

Venue detail:
A.P.T Gallery »
6 Creekside London SE8 4SA Open in new window

A Life of Its Own

Prisoners and un-publishing in Nakameguro

poster for Ami Clarke

Ami Clarke "Be Seeing You"

at The Container
in the Nakameguro, Ebisu area
Ends in 58 days

8 people bookmarked this.

In Reviews by Jessica Howard 2012-02-07 print

In January London-based artist Ami Clarke travelled to Tokyo to install two video works in The Container, a gallery space located in a hairdressing salon in Nakameguro. Whilst in Japan she also launched her free of charge publication “UNPUBLISH”, which can be picked up at the exhibition, and delivered a talk at Konno Hachiman Shrine (January 25), mainly discussing her passion for diagrams, her preoccupation with how the cosmos functions, and past and present working practice.

An artist who began as a sculptor and has created work in a variety of media throughout her career, she frequently incorporates pre-existing material at the centre of her projects via a considered process of interrogative mediation. More recently, it is filmic texts and the presentation of written communication that have become increasingly prominent in her oeuvre. With this it is worth noting that Clarke is also the founder of Banner Repeater, a reading room and project space located on the platform of Hackney Downs railway station, East London. From here artistic texts are distributed to the public en masse and information laid directly into the hands of weary commuters, their target audience. The process of denoting “knowledge” and the questions of how “knowledge” is disseminated and then acquired on an individual level are at the forefront of her creative practice and the issues addressed by the works now on show.

In the current exhibition entitled “Be Seeing You”, Clarke’s process of re-appropriating matter as a way to expose the underlying relationships and assumptions that original texts precariously subsist upon is in full force. Broadly acknowledging and often highlighting the original sources for her works, and meanwhile discussing the manner in which she discovered and subsequently altered them, Clarke’s way of working lauds an overwhelming transparency.

Ami Clarke, 'Be Seeing You' (2011)<br />
Single screen digital video/sound. Duration: 5.52 min

Ami Clarke, 'Be Seeing You' (2011)
Single screen digital video/sound. Duration: 5.52 min

Photography: Pascal Gravot Haeberli. Courtesy of The Container

The main video projection is telling of both Clarke’s fascination with the popular late Sixties British spy fiction TV series “The Prisoner” and her ongoing investigation into the nature of how information is handled in the age of modern technology and advanced capitalism. It is not necessary for one to have knowledge of “The Prisoner” prior to visiting the exhibition, but having a grasp of the themes the series explores may provide a useful point of entry for this particular work.

In the first episode the main protagonist/prisoner awakes in an anonymous and isolated village, having been abducted for interrogation following his abrupt resignation from a secret agent role. He angrily states, “I will not make any deals with you. I resigned. I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered. My life is my own.” Arguably this sentiment resonates strongly with the video work. Primarily featuring footage of ‘Rover’ (a large, white, balloon-like object that forcibly controls non-compliant inhabitants) and rhythmically edited scenes of varying depictions of light, the nature of the changeable spherical images represented in this large projection are laid open for questioning. Re-presenting multiple manifestations to explore the construction of Rover specifically, taken from both the original TV series and the 2009 U.S. mini-series, Clarke makes a bid to analyse an object that she admits has been a long-term obsession of hers. However, in making this video, more than ever the plasticity of the object and the impossibility of its movement becomes increasing opaque, as she is the first to claim; whilst the filmic illusion is broken down in the reconfiguring of the stock footage, the absurd and somewhat alarming nature of the circular image on screen is retained. Rather than briefing or debriefing the audience and allowing them to “know” the object represented, she turns the interrogative strobe back onto the viewer, rejecting and challenging their desire for a single channel of explanation, and instead allows it to have a life of its own.

Ami Clarke, 'Be Seeing You' (2011)<br />
Single screen digital video/sound. Duration: 5.52 min

Ami Clarke, 'Be Seeing You' (2011)
Single screen digital video/sound. Duration: 5.52 min

Photography: Pascal Gravot Haeberli. Courtesy of The Container

Furthermore, Clarke also exposes the fallacious nature of the chimeric one-directional relationship between the viewer and the screen by demonstrating that such an archaic, singular standpoint is merely one of a multiplicity positions that the viewer may choose to inhabit when encountering a filmic text. In an age of ever more refined technology, direct experience and interaction with art has become increasingly treasured, something that is adamantly avoided in popular filmic tradition. For this reason, the container space itself is also significant. With a rather odd and disconnected atmosphere, it holds the viewer at a tension as to whether they are situated in a submersive environment or actually at somewhat of a remove from the projected work. Whilst stood awkwardly in an unevenly darkened and rather cramped steel shell – there is no indication of where is best to stand – the sound in the film also comes and goes. At times it is rather loud, a mixture of the stock music and actors’ voices, though more often than not it is barely audible. The extraneous noises from the salon are consistently perceptible and often drown out the more dulcet film score. This makes one unable to avoid the artificiality of the situation and the incongruous nature of the video and the screening set up – the illusion is broken.

Ami Clarke, 'Be Seeing You' (2011)<br />
Single screen digital video/sound. Duration: 5.52 min

Ami Clarke, 'Be Seeing You' (2011)
Single screen digital video/sound. Duration: 5.52 min

Photography: Pascal Gravot Haeberli. Courtesy of The Container

What is most interesting is that for Clarke it is the plurality of manifestations and perspectives, which the illusory dimension so reliably denies or disavows, that are of concern. “UNPUBLISH”, some of the pink pages of which are enlarged and pasted up inside The Container, could be considered as an unconnected yet occasionally converging exploration of similar themes. Openly addressing the act of deleting information as an attempt to re-write history, Clarke playfully takes the recent case of U.S. solider Bradley Manning and questions the concept of “un-publishing” information. For, as in the films, she appropriates pre-existing material and re-works it in a way that allows audiences to dispute the often singular authority that a text is assumed to have, granting it license to continue to exist with a life of its own.

Jessica Howard Jessica Howard. Previously a resident of rural Shizuoka, Jessica has just moved to Tokyo for the first time, following the completion of a Masters in 20th-century avant-garde art history back in the UK. Before living in Japan initially, she worked in English museums and art galleries assisting with collection research, exhibition planning and events organisation. Since arriving back in Japan in September 2011, however, she has been working as a film screener for a Tokyo-based film festival and as a freelance semiotician. Her interests span far and wide, ranging from feminist politics in the visual arts to South Asian pop culture. An obsession with 20th-century Japanese print culture, magazines in particular, is also worth noting. » See other writings

Ami Clark, 'Folly', MDF, paint, roughly 1.9x1.9x2.2m, 2006

Ami Clarke, 'Folly', MDF, paint, roughly 1.9x1.9x2.2m, 2006


Inside outsider language

Waterside Project Space, London
2 July – 15 August

Reviewed by: Emily Candela »

Some compare the artist to a shaman, a figure endowed with powers of communication that can pierce the supernatural realm, and the right to transgress thresholds - of gender or language, for instance - that are off-limits to the rest of society. Even if you doubt contemporary artists' connections to the spirit world this can be a useful comparison, because it hints at the balancing act involved in art-making: on one hand is the artist's drive to push beyond existing structures, and on the other is the artist's foremost tool: a visual ‘language' buttressed by the unquestioned pillars of the art historical canon.

The history of art is present throughout ‘Inside outsider language'. A first glance revealed the familiar visual idioms, ticks and cues inherited from past traditions of modernism and minimalism, but it quickly became clear to me that the artists in this show are playing just outside these familiar tongues. In this liberating territory of babble, meaning is created not so much through recognisable forms as through their destabilisation.

Ami Clarke's Folly, a monumental arrangement of triangular, diamond and square-shaped volumes, embodies this sense of spirited irreverence. Glossy-black and packed with hard right angles, Folly conjures the ghosts of both modernist architecture and minimalist sculpture. But, like an architectural folly, which typically takes the form of a mock ruin, it isn't what it seems. Folly has no particular form. It is, in fact, a 3D spatial puzzle for the viewer to re-arrange. This opens up the valuable process of thinking in space beyond the hermetic zone of the artist in the studio, and invites the viewer to violate the rules and conventions that prevent us from laying our hands on a Donald Judd.

Modulation of form and a playful attitude toward the modernist notion of medium speciicity pervade the show. This is one element of George Young’s works, each comprising painting and sculpture as part of a whole. And Matthew Verdon’s Composition Number 1, in a way, is a speciic 1939 Mondrian painting, albeit in its most basic material form: rectangular pieces of wood and a lone can of paint. These are rearranged daily on the floor of the gallery, a gesture that acknowledges the way in which our notion of the past is (or should be) open and changeable.

In some ways, the historical legacy most palpable in this show is that of the ‘dematerialisation of the art object’, as Lucy Lippard termed the late 1960s rise of conceptual and post-studio practices. The idea of ‘dematerialisation’ might hold a special resonance today as so many aspects of everyday life – not just art – are stripped of their materiality and recast in digital form.

Yuri Pattison’s CH21 reflects the ambiguous role of materiality in contemporary visual communication. In it, the analogue immaterial – specifically, a television test pattern – is made present in physical form. At one end of the gallery, a video camera is trained on a group of grey banners hanging from floor to ceiling that gradate from light to dark. The camera flattens and transmits their image by radio signal to a television across the room where those familiar bars appear, somehow less familiar now for our knowledge of their live tangible source.

Material and history, as components of visual language, become shifting things in this show. Perhaps most importantly, works amenable to the viewer’s imprint like Folly and CH21, and the use of humour and play throughout, remind us that we might all re-arrange the (increasingly) visual codes of communication today, and that the power to trespass is not only the privilege of the artist, shaman or not.

Central St Martin's Fine Art Grad Show

Published 11 months ago

Dazed speaks to a few of the most talented Art & Design students at the prestigious London college

Arts & Culture

Image Gallery

Central St Martins College of Art and Design has a reputation spanning decades, boasting an alumni that includes filmmaker Mike Leigh, Paul Simonon of the Clash, author Richard Millward, Hussien Chalayan, Lucien Freud and Faris Badwan of The Horrors. But the focus this time is on the Fine Art MA. Founded by Joanna Greenhill, the show marks the end of an era in two ways since this was Greenhill last show as head of the department and also the last one before the college relocates to Kings Cross in autumn 2011. Josh Baum, Ami Clarke and Funa Ye were three of the artists that stood out. Dazed was lucky enough to catch up with them to find out what brought them to this point, and how they might move forward.

Ami Clarke Ami Clarke makes installations using film and sculpture as well as text - namely a funny take on Donald Rumslfeld’s ‘known unknowns’. The central part of the show was a film based around the Fort Worth Water Gardens in Texas USA, this film is viewed though a large frame, the viewers are separated from each other and for the most part from the film which is essentially framed in many different ways depending on where you stand within the installation.

Dazed Digital: You use a variety of media. Would you say that was essential for your work, for what you have to say? How did you incorporate this into your show concept?
Ami Clarke:
I am interested in how the different works in the room might play off one another, yes, and here there are several mediums shown together.  The film is a fairly recent development for me, and I am keen to follow up more of the ideas that evolved along the way whilst producing this particular edit.  The relationships between the works are important and act as a set of coded signs that I would hope correlate through an experiential awareness of being in the works, viewing, reading, and working towards meaning, a diagram if you like of sorts.

I am motivated to consider the gallery in the sense of the potential critical framework that this might provide.  I would hope that the visitor to the work finds themselves being ‘directed’ by the design of the screens, and with that an implicit relationship occurs, touching on ideas with regards participation and engagement, and ultimately authorship. 

I am keen to draw attention to concerns that might exist outside of the gallery space whilst operating within this framework.  Ideas relating to design and architecture drawn from the experience of the screens, say, I would hope relate to a broader picture, and touch on maybe the background ideologies that are apparent in such architecture as the Fort Worth Water Gardens, designed by Phillip Johnson and John Burgee, and referenced in the film.

DD: What would you do if you could do anything?
Ami Clarke:
Pretty much what I am doing now but with more funds to do it with.  Which would mean more time to spend on the work, more space to do it in, and more technical support and back-up.  I am opening a reading room and project space on a platform in Hackney Downs at the end of September, partly funded by an Empty Shops fund award from Hackney Council and some very welcome Arts Council funding.

The project Banner Repeater, named after one of the stop/go signs on the railway, has a strong focus on artists publishing, and will develop a program over the year that includes events, performance and a permanent library for browsing.  Exhibitions will run throughout the year and will consider further, ideas relating to the diagram. 



Bought boldly off-the-shelf Ami Clarke’s neon sign VACANCY (2007), provides a rich ‘Narnia’ like theoretical entrance to the vexed open question of what so called contemporary art is "all about" and where if anywhere its exponents and their artefacts might be leading? From the outset it asks us as convened viewers to do more than act out the usual rites of semantic divination, or just marvel at her bright modernistic use of technology, for this Duchampian ‘sculpture’ presents itself and therefore the local site it occupies as an aporia: why on earth deliberately install a sign announcing emptiness, not designating goods or services in other words? What sort of witty and disturbing shell game is going on here? Have we pitched up at a yawning hole in the cultural ozone layer? Another meaningless gallery dead-end? Zero? For once then, information content has been bested by form, and form subordinated to the issue of ‘production’ which underlays and motivates this work. Analysing pictures, Paul Crowther has remarked on a tendency ‘to emphasise what is involved in their recognition, at the expense of addressing what is achieved in their making’*. Similarly here, questions rule: we want to know why the sculptor has chosen to peddle vacancy, what forces have driven her to this point and how it has been achieved; in short develop a cognitive relationship to this glowing pink signage for ourselves.

Vacancy does have its antecedents though, as Clarke’s work Un-limited reveals. Made from a column of blown ‘sleever’ type beer glasses, scale 1:3, sat end to end, its impact at the 2005 show ‘Totem’ in the low key interior of MOT gallery was the opposite of monumental: a tricksy attempt at the appropriation of space, her vitreous jar contained the trapped air of terra nullius, and the promise of yards of Belgian lager to be consumed both at the preview and afterwards in the pub. It is tempting to associate and relate such subtle practices to Rachel Whiteread’s empty quotidian molds, for Un-limited possesses the same hollow purity as Whiteread’s Untitled (Yellow Bath) (1996), in which the eye is inevitably drawn into the poignant human-shaped space left behind, as much as the yellow rubber and polystyrene tub form. Clarke too investigates this plenary dimension of emptiness, not so much a totem but a political taboo in consumer society, setting up a tension between transparent material and the space it delimits. In such a study formal simplicity effectively subjects the viewer to ‘ostranenie’, a literary defamiliarisation technique.

There is too a marked literary aspect to Vacancy that situates it inside the history of graffiti and inscription. Juliet Fleming’s fascinating study The Writing on the Wall -graffiti and the writing arts in early modern England (2001) examines the use of ‘posies’ or commonplace inscription be it biblical, proverbial or erotic on the limewashed walls and leaded windows of 16th century houses, reminders and injunctions to behave decorously in an age that was ‘paper-short’. So Vacancy as an indoor sign might well be seen as a form of prophylactic against the saturation coverage of news media 24/7, a Puritan charm against the overfull and overblown, respite for the frazzled corpus callosum. Yet the piece sits humbly on the floor, at mouse-eye level, subverting its own optimal position as a wall mounted advert, a red-light district tease reminiscent of the seedy B&B Las Vegas in ‘Get Carter’. Why one might ask? Rosalind Krauss has pointed out how the wall plane attracts the upright human gaze, whilst the ground is contaminated by recall of the bestial four-legged, or evolutionary retrogression in other words; and yet, this selfsame floor is also the material base for statue plinths and columns, both of which are significant absences suggested here.



Clarke relates an anecdote clearly important to her, about two boys who, on bursting into ‘Three Colts Gallery’, where her puzzle piece Folly was being exhibited, immediately got the hang of it and started ‘arranging and stacking’ the parts according to their desires. Such modularity is not so obviously an attribute of Vacancy, but is operative anyway, as virtual modularity, for the sign cordially invites mental block-building, implying that a substitute work might sit where there is none, pressing the viewer to remake visual reality then, or insert their own unique structure. Such a novel approach militates against any form of fetishism whatsoever, decoying the eye away from the material sign, and setting up a game or performance. Indeed it soon becomes clear that the title’s conflation with the work per se is another red herring, and that the horizons summoned up are not dependent on local context at all, but stretch to infinity. In fact this is a case where the viewer is better off losing their ‘normative grip’ to use Arthur Danto’s telling phrase and explore the blasted terrain left vacant after the end of art, a cultural space unequalled in magnitude since Nietzsche’s ennunciation of the death of God.

In AEROSOL 400ml,salmon orange, Art. –Nr 327 134 a work now destroyed, flat  spatiality and the quest for texture, finish, or effect become the main concerns and components, taking the place of iconography, and recapitulating how in the erstwhile archaeological record tactile painting has been replaced by Greenbergian surface which in turn has been ousted by advertising in the form of electronic street slaps. AEROSOL then as a colour swatch, references both a moribund performative instant as well as what Clarke has referred to in conversation as "strange imperfections”, an advert for the brand of spray-can as well as the ineptitude of the technician. Vacancy too makes itself available to numerous readings, cleverly evoking punk psychology even as it suggests the complex dynamic of negotiation and contractuality which goes into the appearance of a work of art in a gallery, implying that you too can fill the void if you know the right people and twist the correct key. However by means of apophatic charm alone, the neon summons us to experience our own vacancy, and ultimately mysterious disappearance.

Michael Hampton 2008/9

* Paul Crowther, ‘Pictorial Space and the Possibility of Art’ British Journal of Aesthetics vol 48 #2, April 2008.

Recent installation photographs from London galleries and venues.

published by Rachmaninoffs 2005.

'Un-limited' at TOTEM,
MOT gallery London.