Notes on Coop’s ‘What is lost’
‘Coop’ are two artists embellishing and disturbing each other’s work. They started as a co-op but morphed into a coop – think hen coop, cooped up: two tender but warring sensibilities constraining themselves to collaborate. The result is a restless but oddly hypnotic piece. You stand intrigued and abstracted as you watch shifting feet projected onto a paper screen that itself imitates the parquet floor on which you stand.....
The feet and ankles occupy the top of the blue surface, (the legs are cut off below the knee by the top of the screen) as if you are seeing the feet of angels floating in a clear sky, but the six pairs of identical feet are dirty and bare, constantly shifting, sometimes facing one way, sometimes another. Occasionally a different set of feet passes through them. The movements are jerky as frames have been removed from the film. Each limb has a number, a time marking on it. The numbers run quickly down, letting you know where images have been removed but also acting like the tick of a clock; you feel the strangely restful sensation of watching time pass. At the bottom of the screen, and also imprinted with these numbers, three grey blobs of claylike substance move to and fro, making friends and moving apart, more frenetic and demonstrative than the slow shifting feet above. They reminded me of Svankmajer’s clay creatures with their sense of urgent, surrogated emotional life.
The room contains other pieces which explore and develop aspects of this central installation. Another screen, about the size and height of an advertising board outside a shop, shows a cut off leg (this time we see it sliced off at the top; rather like in Terry Gilliam’s Monty Python credit sequence.) It spins on a wheel, slowly rotating, like a mechanical toy or like a piece of clay on a very small potter’s wheel. The prevailing colour is the same: pasty grey flesh against a cerulean blue. Hung high up on the walls of the exhibition space there are some flowing découpages; cut-outs of blue paper making shapes reminiscent of a tangle of rope. When you get close you realise that the blue paper from which they are cut are actually photos of the spinning foot. There is also a sound piece: a recording of the sharp slice of scissors in thick paper. It is amplified, uncanny; a ghost of the artists at work.
In the gallery upstairs, still in sight of the screen and earshot of the ominous scissors, hang detailed studies which explore the production and themes of the central piece. There are careful drawings of feet on poles, ankles disappearing into paper trousers; there are paintings and découpages of ropes, of the floor, splashes of paint, the hint of a knife, a video of hands grasping at then releasing skeins of dazzling white rope against an even more glorious blue, dis-orientatingly placed in a horizontal plane. You feel you are witnessing two artists dismembering and re-modelling each other and their ideas. There is a strong focus on the sense of loss that accompanies a fought-over image: images of people missing body parts, of blue paint dripping like blood, of the room in pieces, of the slices of the universe... This is a show which hints at spiritual yearning while remaining resolutely earth-bound, that conveys a strong sense of mortality while being recalcitrantly alive.