Hallucinogens, nature and corporate culture: Prouvost and Treister

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Copyright Suzanne Treister. Digital print, HFT The Gardener/ Botanical Prints/ Rank 1: Apple-US-Technology hardware &  equipment, courtesy of the artist, Annely Juda Fine Art, London and P.P.O.W., New York

Tropical  Hangover at Tenderpixel suggests an ambivalent attitude to the intoxication that nature can induce. Cleverly drawn together, the five artists take diverse approaches on the nature/culture clash and there are several gems to be uncovered, not least Suzanne Treister’s surreal take on the hallucinogenic aspects of global capitalism.

Laure Prouvost is her usual quirky self with her short film, Swallow (2013), while not reaching the glorious, wonky heights of absurdity experienced in her 2013 Turner Prize winning installation, Wantee.  Its luxuriant visuals of sunlight, foliage, waterfalls, pools and wildlife (non-tropical!) are not that original but they are complemented by an unsettling whispered commentary spoken in the French-accented English of the artist. She sensuously entreats you to submit yourself to her images:  I heard: “This image needs you”, but it might have been: “This image eats you”. Both seem to work.

The potential erotic symbolism of fruit is explored like the visual equivalent of Christina Rossetti’s poem Goblin Market but this is undermined by some dissonant footage of raspberries being eaten by a fish and strawberries being discovered under a rock. These cultivated soft fruits are now more closely associated with plastic punnets rather than the natural environment. This dissonance is further amplified by glimpses of a USB  lead nestled in the grass and a bright green and purple trainer surrounded by similarly coloured butterflies.

Prouvost’s inclination to give nature the upper hand to culture is hinted at in her slogan on an adjacent painted board  Ideally everything here would be covered in mussels. This appealing image is developed by Rowena Harris’s online video After Attenborough (2017) which makes sense of both floors of the gallery being painted sky blue. This acts as a digital blue-screen for her to flood the gallery with images of flora appropriated from the TV documentary Life of Plants. This entrancing  film, viewable on the Tenderpixel website, is a triumph of ingenuity.

In  HFT (High Frequency Trading) The Gardener, Suzanne Treister takes a sideswipe at the creepiness of multinationals trying to sanitise their operations with tasteful artwork that references the natural world, Apple perhaps being one of the worst culprits. Her cunning deadpan elision of corporate publicity styling, Victorian botanical illustration and a narrative tracing a city trader’s meltdown, hits the bull’s-eye on so many targets. Plant based hallucinogens seem to infiltrate his bank’s investment algorithms and we get a sense of his nightmare existence in the hyperactive global corporate culture. Treister’s collected plant prints are the putative product of the city trader’s new career as an outsider artist obsessionally linking plant hallucinogens with the FTSE top 500 companies. An atmospheric video giving her alter ego’s backstory and a collection of “his” extensive drawings both perfectly capture his manic and freewheeling conjecturing and can be viewed on her website: http://www.suzannetreister.net/HFT_TheGardener/HFT_menu.html

Salvatore Arancio shows some interesting biomorphic ceramics and a video and Zuzanna Czebatul has a couple of striking wall sculptures evoking giant ferns  but neither of them add much to the culture/nature clash theme.

Prouvost’s take on nature has hints of cultural contamination but these ideas are pursued with gusto by Treister. The exhibition runs until 4 March and is mainly worth seeing for the multifaceted, subversive anarchy of Treister’s work contrasting with the sensuous appeal of Prouvost’s video.

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