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Hitting all the wrong notes... ; NOT NECESSARILY IN THE RIGHT ORDER - COMMON CULTURE New Art Exchange

October 11, 2013


THE title of this big video and sound installation is, you assume, borrowed from one of Eric Morecambe's best jokes.

In the Morecambe and Wise TV sketch, Eric was playing the piano, badly. You're playing all the wrong notes, Ernie told him. To which Eric replied: I am playing all the right notes, just not necessarily in the right order. Sadly, this new artwork at New Art Exchange isn't anywhere as funny as that. Indeed, it's not funny at all; it's rather po-faced and - worst of all - a bit testing of one's attention.

Still, the artists involved, a trio called Common Culture who've staged arch art interventions all over the place, redeem themselves with a little video show called The New El Dorado.

But more on that in a second. The main installation, which fills the gallery's main hall, is - we read - a kind of reflection on Nottingham's multi-cultural demographic as it is celebrated in annual festivals such as the Mela and Goose Fair. Goose Fair? Anyway: the action takes place on three huge screens on which a narrator, who reappears at intervals, shouts about the importance of festival and carnival.

It shows us the limits of our joy, he says. It is our first world - why is it your second world? Although it's not made clear who this question is directed at (the police? their parents?), the narrative regularly gives way to film of various local musicians playing a pleasingly multicultural jam.

There's a Celtic-y woman singer; a long-haired bloke playing electric guitar; a man playing a kind of wooden flute; drummers; a bass player; two kinds of keyboards; a belly dancer and a classical Indian dancer.

Oh yes, and somebody in a tired-looking pantomime animal suit.

It all ends in a mild black'n'white'n'brown cacophony, although with the notes and players (and their respective cultures) Not Necessarily In The Right Order, see? Meanwhile, upstairs above the main gallery, a kind of commentary on the show is running in text that resembles the opening credits on Star Wars. After two minutes of this mystifying self-indulgence I decided I could take no more and went back downstairs for an Americano and a reconnection with wi- fi.

On the way, though, I was hijacked by Common Culture's 2010 video The New El Dorado, in which lamely dressed Spaniards discuss the meaning of art and much more while observing the talent at their local tourist discotheque. Cultural tourists, they declare, while dancing on the sidelines and sipping cheap red cocktails, are the best kind: they spend more, dress better and are better looking that the tourists on the coast.

The video was made for an art festival in Murcia and hinges on debates about cultural consumption and the commodification of culture.

But, shouts one of the bewigged, jigging Spaniards above the beat, isn't art itself just a kind of cultural colonialism - a parachuting in of artists to other people's cultures? Clever, ironic, reflective. That's more like it.

The exhibition can be seen until January 12.

Mark Patterson

'' After two minutes of this mystifying self-indulgence I decided I could take no more

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