Written by Gulnaz Can
The title of the new Barry Reigate exhibition is “Do Zombies Dance to Love in C Minor?” – An intriguing question.
I decided to listen to the song, Love in C Minor by Cerrone, before going to the private view. With its orgasmic female back vocals, this relatively erotic 70s disco song led me to many more, including Yes, Sir I Can Boogie by Baccara. Now I couldn't get the image out of my head of zombies boogying all night, perhaps because of having found that certain song.
Castor Projects in Deptford seems to be like a homecoming for Barry Reigate, who finished his MFA at Goldsmiths in the 1990s. He later told me that zombies had actually also been a subject during his university years. His earlier work often deconstructed the nostalgic perception of cartoon characters such as the clown and Mickey Mouse, and was once described as “pop-porn”. To an old-school feminist such as myself, there is very little erotic about porn, and I find the notion of eroticism to exist on a similar level in Reigate’s works. But we have to accept that the suggestion here is that zombies would dance to Love in C Minor, so we can’t undermine any politics of desire in his work.
Zombies, the undead creatures, sound a bit like the artist himself, his making of art, and art as an institution in the text which accompanies the show, written by Reigate. The text is confusing, confrontational, and macho. It refers to a variety of layers, including time, depth, love, life, and body. His text feels very sincere; and it gives a certain pleasure and confusion to hear from an artists mind. The show turns into a special experience with the combination of all its components.
Reigates description of spraying paint is vivid: firing, shooting tiny atomic particles of acrylic upon a surface – the canvas, infected by history. Going back to layers, his use of the airbrush creates a sense of illusion of depth and multiple materials throughout the work. The Canvases require some time to look at, as they seem to be almost three dimensional, and sometimes even appear to be moving as a result.
It is possible to see some evidence of the destruction of the joyousness in cartoons, especially in the work “Dark Destroyer”. There is a round form, maybe a bit like a ‘funny’ face with disproportionate eyes. One of the eyes seems to sink deep into the head, exposing the eye socket. Almost like a zombie, staring at us, very determined to come to us, but also as if it is smiling and winking. It is not easy to know how to feel about this abstraction.
I see eyes everywhere. Reigate accuses us of enjoying staring at death from a distance. Most of us agree. Who would be happy to join them on the dance floor anyway? He suggests that it is fun to look at the surface and gaze at the effect. With zombies, differentiating the surface and depth is hard, because of their phenomenology. Their interior and exterior are not distinct. A decaying corpse has no proper skin, and malfunctioning organs are happy to expose themselves. Seeming scary yet fragile, it is indeed fun to stare at zombies, except that they stare at us too. Zombies, as non-procreative beings, not as sophisticated as living humans, seem to have a sole desire: to eat the life out of us. They always appear to be very ambitious about their desire.
Barry Reigate concludes that art is dead, yet is alive, like zombies. And they should be allowed to dance with erotic moves. Even if nobody would like to join them, it should be fun to watch.
The exhibition can be seen until 25 March 2017 at Castor Projects, Deptford.