Plan 9

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Double Yes - 23 August - 7 September 2008

Toby Huddlestone

> You Tube video of opening night 'Strip (Triple Pun)' performance

Gallery text from Double Yes:

In his first solo show, Toby Huddlestone explores boundaries and hierarchies, using humour to question the passive consumption of cultural norms.

Passing through the entrance, Huddlestone opens with a celebratory double positive – yes to me, and yes to you too.  'My name in vinyl' is exactly that, “my name in vinyl” spelt out on the gallery door. In a stag do/ hen night t-shirt kind of way, we're all simultaneously given our 15 minutes of art world fame.

A bit of a tease, he snatches back this opening come on/ come in, reasserting authorship with 'Celebratory Strategy'. Isolating the star from the means of success – a cinema façade juts out from the gallery wall. Its reassuring glow bathes the space with the proclamation “Now Showing...Toby Huddles tone”. Using a nostalgia for a time when stars were outside the everyday, 'Celebratory Strategy' comments on the modern mundanity of fame, where anyone can be famous for being famous and we settle for Jade over Marilyn, tits out in China White over skirts billowing in Seven Year Itch.

In 'Pile on', a video of a female nude reclining in a lush landscape is projected into a gilt frame. In a sudden rush, the title of the piece becomes clear, and a horde of besuited gentlemen pile onto the supine cliché, before running off out of shot. With playground bathos, 'Pile on' gleefully upsets the romantic idyll of past Masters.

The ongoing 'Actions in Galleries' series shows footage and stills of the artist walking around or near iconic works of art by artists such as Donald Judd, Paul McCarthy and Rodney Graham. With a playful gesture, Huddlestone undermines the artworks' aura and repositions them within the commonplace - joyfully jolting us from passive acceptance whilst toying with postmodernism's hierarchical obsessions. 'Actions in Galleries' also plays with notions of narrative control. The stills show an isolated moment in time, leaving the viewer to imagine what came before and after the documented action. The video sets its own narrative arc - each action has a beginning, middle and end, bookended with where the actions took place - leaving the viewer with less room to contribute.  

This misappropriation of cultures' greatest hits is continued in '10/10'. Collecting and analysing a paperback's worth of polls, Huddlestone collates the ultimate top ten song list. Didactic in his subsequent rescoring of the lyrics, Huddlestone riddles  the song sheets with corrections and crossings out. Yet the lyrics survive this 'eats, shoots and leaves' pedantry, and '10/10' romances the potential for the truly great to rise above the quotidian.

Taking on another cultural leviathan – Ikea, 'Fuck you Billy you fuck' sees the Billy bookcase undergo a radical DIY makeover, instructions and Allan key ignored, the Billy bookcase as flatpack is sawn straight through. Huddlestone cheekily skips across hierarchies, releasing Billy from its massed produced misery and elevating it haute culture status.

As with 'my name in vinyl', the video 'Walking the same speed as people' is exactly that. Hurrying on their way to work, Huddlestone manoeuvres himself alongside his targets, invading their personal space and tugging at both theirs and his twitching embarrassment and tutting fluster. An action outside of the gallery, and the artist uses the same strategy he adopts in 'Actions in Galleries' to explore the space in between acceptance and threat, comfort and irritation.

'Homage to Bruce' adopts the familiar spectacle of neon signage to flash the statement ‘Now Man’. Neither observation nor command, 'Homage to Bruce' explores the construct of Nauman's artworks by cheekily referencing not only his visual language but also the phonetics of his name.

This word-play is echoed in 'Strip (Double/Triple Pun)'. Utilitarian florescent strip lights are re-assembled, their cabling apparently chaotic, to display the word ‘STRIP’. An action and an actuality which is taken a step further by the artist commissioning a stripper to perform in front of this unforgiving light source for the opening of the exhibition.

'Dog house (a dog kennel for a curator)', seems to put this suspicious sector of the art world firmly in their place, especially with the work being sited away from the main exhibition and within an artist run space. Yet you get the feeling this is just a temporary measure, too affectionate to be taken seriously. With an accepting whistle, the curator will be bounding back into the gallery at some point, to curl up on the artists lap.

Tying up the playful questioning of the exhibition, the titular piece, Double Yes, is a Möbius strip of a double hander. Twisting and flipping back on its self, content and title are both answer and question, frustrating and illuminating in turn.  “Is is art or I am being had” - yes and yes.

Exhibition text: Sophie Mellor.
Pile-on: Emma Myers, Rich Hames, Marcus Jeffries, Karl Ryan, Jono Moseley, Tom Johnson, Chris Barr, Nim-jo Chung, Karen Di Franco, Tash, Lucie Cox, Lucie Red, Sophie Mellor.
Actions in Galleries: Anton Goldenstein, Sophie Mellor, Darren Honess
Walking the same speed as people: Ali Jones, Sophie Mellor
Associated text: Elisa Kay, Sophie Mellor, Karen Di Franco
Print: Chris Bampton
Homage to Bruce: Rich Box and John