Edwin David Marc Hulson Robert Mabb Matt Mitchell
Susan Morris Esther Planas Alex Schady John Strutton
Dark Pop the exhibition was the offspring of Dark Star fanzine, launched in June 1999 at Five Years. Like the publication, the exhibition explored the current - apparently inexorable and escalating - seepage of so much of the creative detritus once deemed underground, cult or trash into the virtual mainstream of popular culture. Its not as simple as it once was to differentiate between the surface and the undertow of mass culture - the mainstreaming and academicisation of pornography being a case in point. A collapsing of boundaries or return of the repressed has occurred which means that in contemporary terms the collective unconscious is the media: a global mosaic of late night TV, cable stations, once forgotten movies, recordings and publications resuscitsted like a legion of the living dead to populate and stalk the collective imagination.
Pop no longer signifies either the brave new world of product design and brightly coloured advertisements or the knowing pleasures of designer consumption, the sleek banalities of product design. The popular now is all at once a reality show, a horror show, a gothic fantasy. The defining hues of pop are no longer bright primaries but the indefinable, saturated colours of darkness.Dark Star fanzine is primarily the work of artist and performer Esther Planas. The publication is both a vehicle for the fragmentary, pop-folklorical narratives that lie at the heart of all the artists work and a kind of diaristic, zeroxed collection of material that inspires and obsesses her - recontextualised images from magazines and books, photographs of friends and relatives - the various disparate elements woven together by her own drawings, collages and handwritten texts. Each issue also icludes collaborations and contributions from a number of invited artists:- the second edition, published to coincide with the exhibition, will integrate work by all of the artists in Dark Pop.
As well as producing and publishing Dark Star, Esther Planas works with a variety of media including video , painting, photography and performance/music (with her band Dirty Snow). She will be producing a mult-media installation for Dark Pop. Forthcoming exhibitions include a joint project with Marc Hulson at Danielle Arnaud in March and the group show Attraction at Mentronom, Barcelona in November 2000. Her recent solo project Red Rum was described by Juan Bufill in La Vanguardia as "one of the weirdest exhibitions of this season".
Matt Mitchells sinister, ambient UV installations play with architectural iconographies - deserted swimming pools, gas stations and playgrounds lie silent like empty film sets. He has exhibited in Berlin, Amsterdam and Belfast. He will also be mounting a large-scale solo show at 30 Underwood Street in April and is working on a project for the Greenwich millenium festival in May. "His Tron-like sculptures silently glow under UV light bulbs, evoking an end-times, millenial vibe, where human beings are evinced only by the eerie objects that have been left behind, like the traces of their past" (Alex de Cadenet, Sleaze Nation )
The material for John Struttons drawings, paintings and videoworks is trawled from the depths of personal and cultural memory, in particular the murky waters of childhood and adolescence. Since graduating from the Royal College of Art in 1998, he has exhibited in numerous group shows in the UK, the Netherlands, Italy and Thailand, including the exhibition What is Love? at Five Years in February 1999. Forthcoming later this year are solo shows at Nylon, London and Galleria Sonia Rosso in Pordenone, Italy.
For Dark Pop, in addition to photographic work, Edwin David will present a large-scale, wall-based text piece referencing pornographic lyrics from Captain Sensibles version of the Plastic Bertrand song Jet-Boy, Jet-Girl. David is represented by The Agency, London and has exhibited extensively in Germany and the Netherlands. His installation All Tomorrows Parties (at The Agency, 1996 and Art Kitchen, Amsterdam in 1998), a complex masquerade - which touched on themes of identity , sexuality and cultural memory - involved the artist playing out an eerily convincing impersonation of dead pop-icon Nico.
Robert Mabb previously exhibited at Five Years in the exhibition Silent Movies in 1998/99. His work for Dark Pop continues a series of digital animations exploring relationships between viewer and subject in soft-core pornography. Aesthetically, the cool detachment of Mabbs pieces reflect the insidiously bland anonymity of the genre, yet the use of repetition, and the subtle inflections of technique speak of the personal and obsessive. "Mabb digitally dissolves and re-forms soft-porn images to perform a kind of strip-tease with other peoples bodies." (Mark Currah, Time Out)
Susan Morriss enlarged video stills will provide viewers with a foretaste of her solo project The Haunting, forthcoming at Five Years in March. Picking out isolated, floodlit roadside buildings glimpsed from a car window while travelling through Canada, the images speak of the dark mythology of the North Atlantic highway.
Reviewing Marc Hulsons recent solo exhibition at Five Years, Pauk OKane wrote "...some of the most arresting art currenttly found in London...Hulsons paintings map a downbeat mindscape like stills from an oh!-so-sombre sci-fi movie...Its eternally dusk on this planet drowned in deep orange and pink shadow where bleary eyes see in tinted monochrome." (Circa Autumn 1999). Drawing on various forms and genres of fantasy - science-fiction, horror, pornography - the images suggest a skewed, hybrid fictional milieu, an imaginary landscape latent with the possibility of narrative.