Bringing together a new, collaborative body of work by Andy Holden and Steve Roggenbuck at the gallery for the first time, Rowing presents a multi-layered installation comprising sculptures, paintings, videos, wall mural, and poems.
A series of telegraph poles painted in outdoor paint by Holden of one-line poems by Roggenbuck – “An Advert for the Sky” and “When You Instagram My Dead Body Use Walden But Tag it #NoFilter,” both 2016, dot the exhibition like a tree-lined forest. One-liners, a stand-up comedy staple, are also at the heart of “Catharsis,” 2016, a plinth crawling with 180 ceramic cats collected for a number of decades by Holden’s late grandmother, ranging from an Egyptian-style figurine, to a suggestively phallic totem, a piece of decorative charity shop tat, to a feline doubling as a sneaky flask. Accompanying the work is a 20-minute video of the artist unboxing the cats while sharing anecdotes about them. “My Bean is Growing,” 1986/2016, a grid of four large acrylic on canvas paintings taken from Holden’s 1986 homework assignment, also employs the one-liner, this time memorialising a growth chart of artistic creativity.
Zigzagging through the joint exhibition are branch-like strands of irony and sincerity, which oscillate in Holden’s M!MS manifesto painting “It is About the Intense Sadness of Our Unrealistic Dreams…,” 2013, about a failed artistic collective he participated in as a teenager, and Roggenbuck’s video “Make Something Beautiful Before You Die,” 2012, in which the artist fuses irony with sincerity through poetry supercharged by technology. Additionally, the exhibition joins the forces of nature and technology, demonstrated by Roggenbuck’s “I am Not Responsible for Anything the Moon Does This Month,” 2016, a handheld-style video shot by the artist while freestyling his poem to camera and traversing the Arizona desert. CGI images of wild animals are counterposed with ominous audio clips from linguist Noam Chomsky’s talk on ecological disaster precipitated by human complacency and the failings of late capitalism. Likewise, the telegraph poles evoke technological trees, and the exhibition title links social media technologies like Instagram to echoes of Henry David Thoreau's ideas on solitude in his book Walden which itself is turned into the name of a filter.
The exhibition moves fluidly between domestic and cosmic scales as well, zooming out, for example, from the collection of ceramic cats which face “Eyes in Space,” 2014, Holden’s googly eyed wallpaper which clads a gallery wall, transforming the cats into a broader meditation on time and mortality.
The theme of collaboration extends not only to the labels of artist / poet which Roggenbuck and Holden playfully straddle and the diverse range of media they use, but also to the anonymous authors of the found paintings, such as “The Sun Setting is Just Your Side of the Earth Turning Away, the Sun Doesn’t Stop,” 2016, Andy Holden, Steve Roggenbuck, and Leonard G Stephens, and “It Would Be In the Interest of Almost Every Species on Earth for Human Beings to Die Off As Soon As Possible,” 2016, Andy Holden,
Steve Roggenbuck, and James Warren. Similarly, Holden and Roggenbuck’s biographies emphasise their fluidity among different media, including books, video, exhibition-making, and live performance.