Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Review of Relative Strangers by Elizabeth Wright for a-n magazine

Lucy Gibson: Relative Strangers
Brahm Gallery 4th April – 6th May 2005

‘Relative Strangers’ is an exploration of the metaphysical domain of memory. The work narrates the experience of returning to the city where the artist spent her childhood and her subsequent feeling of displacement. Jessica Owide, Brahm Gallery’s curator, has described the work as “a disquietingly beautiful depiction of, and inquisition into, the workings of our memories within the spaces we occupy”.

The body of work comprises five photographs on a thin mount, offering a fragile structure for this narrative. But it is through structuring this experience that both the artist and spectator begin to understand it. The atmospheric photographs are empty of human presence; the photographs evoke the isolated and almost vulnerable position of a stranger in a strangely familiar city.

Two sound recordings interject the void with a human presence and offer a spoken narrative to accompany the photographs. A female voice offers an audio description of the visual counterpart. The voice speaks of intangible subjects such as the weather and the season. Of the “tension in the air and an orange glow on the estate before a thunderstorm” and this is echoed in the colouration of the photographs on display.

‘Relative Strangers’ is effective in communicating its subject both visually and aurally, a combination that reinforces the loneliness, yet transient position of the artist. As we read the photographic image our imagination fills in the gaps; the photographs have the potential to transport us from our own experience outside of ourselves. However, the audio serves to bring us back to reality. But as the spectator listens to the sound coming through the headphones the experience is still one of isolation and relative lonelin

We are voyeuristically looking through a window onto someone else’s experience of memory, and listening to fragments of someone else’s conversation; it is not a particularly comfortable experience.

Elizabeth Wright is a freelance writer based in Leeds, currently working at the Henry Moore Institute and Longside Gallery at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.


This review was publised in a-n magazine in June 2005. For more information see


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