in Nausea: Encounters with Ugliness
Djanogly Gallery, Nottingham and
London Print Studio, London
Leak consists of roughly fifty life-size models of rats and a model of a small puddle of mucky brown liquid. These are placed in the architectural margins of the gallery. Rats perch on exit signs; climb up screens; run along skirting boards; peer down from lighting tracks; and so on. The gallery visitor is completely surrounded by rats but this is not at all obvious. They are not obvious because they are not in the type of place one is used to looking for art in a gallery. They are not indicated on the gallery map. However, once you’ve spotted one rat, you see them everywhere.
The rats encompass the entire exhibition: from one end of the gallery to the other; from floor to ceiling; inside and out. They menace the other work, which becomes a prop for their presence. They menace the gallery visitor who is outnumbered and looked at from all directions. The art gazes at the spectator.
Rats are emblematic of that which is out of place. Within Western culture, they are assigned a place of pure negativity: in our stories, nursery rhymes, urban myths and slang rats are dangerous, treacherous, dirty, nasty and omens of ill fortune. In this cultural economy, rats have no positive being themselves but are the receptacles for those negative traits of animality that we wish to exclude from ourselves. Rats are the excluded. They are The Philistine; The Jew: The Proletariat. They are ‘the universal exception’ in that in their very negativity they are the carriers of the truth: a truth not of unity but of division.