A Dumpster Fire and 'Dampbusters'
Exhibition Review for Winnie Herbstein's Show at the CCA
We’re back to writing little reviews again. I will be writing those longer ones with the videos, but to appease the gossip readers, I will be writing short-form diaristic reviews. This is a ‘short-form diaristic review’ of Dampbusters by Winnie Herbstein. Enjoy. xxx
Fri 6 Aug 2021 (that day it rained loads and my flat flooded):
I got to the CCA before the rain got heavy. And before we go on, I just want to clarify; I am Carrie Bradshaw, this is self-indulgent, and I haven’t seen Sex in the City. And while we’re on the topic of self-indulgence, I look at art all the time. Nothing is more self-indulgent than an artist and their art.
I saw the remains of a dumpster fire outside the other day. Make what you want of that. My titles are clickbait and I don’t care.
“I’ve made a slip hazard in the foyer!”
Kat got there later, by then the gallery had flooded. We were ushered out. We met her in the foyer alongside shallow pools of water. Water was dripping. The rain was heavier than I had seen it in Glasgow. Erupted drains, flooded galleries, soaked poly trousers. We’re all going to drown one day. Buy property on high ground if you have to, there’s no way any of these first-floor tenement flats are making it. Basement flat? Forget it. Doesn’t matter, the front of all of these tenements are going to fall off anyway. And not in a scaremongering way, I just totally believe it. Speaking of housing, speaking of damp, that’s the backbone of today’s exhibition.
Dampbusters was put together by Winnie Herbstein—someone I don’t think I’ve met but follow online. The work is about damp houses, council houses, in Glasgow; ones that the council has no concern for, ones that the council suppose to not have mould, ones that the council alleges have been neglected by their tenants. Poorly designed ‘sick houses’ with sick people inside. No, the work doesn’t concern itself with my anxiety about rotting wood joists and crumbling sandstone, but it is concerned with damp.
I went into the space, before the flood, and stood up to watch the video. In front of the video, there were two benches. Feel free to sit on a bench if you go. When I was there someone waved to me from the bench and I wasn’t exactly sure who it was at the time, so I waved back (still with no idea who it was) and chose masochism.
The film feels like it could range in length anywhere from ten minutes to ten days but that’s what standing in front of a video in a gallery will do to you. Time slows down. You try to take in the room; this one was a big one, downstairs in the CCA, with a welded scaffolding in the shape of the frame of a house. The video bolted on. Artists love that. Big metal structure with a video on it. ‘Activates’ the space, or the viewer, I guess. To be honest, anything can be activated. Charcoal can be activated. Activated toning face mask video art.
I was talking to a friend of mine, there at the show. I asked, in a totally friendly and well-meaning manner, “why can’t there be multiple screens and multiple little benches, so that multiple (more-than-two) people can watch the film while sitting down?” The rumour is, there was only one 4K screen. Which, ok, I understand, but part of the video is footage from a play performed in the 1990s about damp houses, with adult actors dressed up in an Aspergillus (a fungus) costume, and child actors dressed up as bureaucrats. The play was recorded before 4K existed and the video recording hasn’t been restored since. The rest is amateur-ish cam recordings of the inside of houses, the unfurling of a blueprint of a door, and the interior of a community centre. The only video that seemingly could require 4K playback might be the pretty unnecessary computer-rendered interior of an idyllic home.
I have become, over the course of this newsletter, tonally akin to a viewer of Grand Designs. ‘I’d put a bench in there”, “I don’t know about that“, “maybe something with back support”, “wouldn’t you like two TVs in the house”.
The video, Dampbusters, not a girl not yet a woman (liminal), is good. It sits in that murky space between documentary and video art. I think the content is amazing, with these activists and performers—do I think the art bit of the video-art-documentary is totally vital? A little bit. Could there be less of it? A little less, yes. Would my reading of the work change with less of it? Probably not. The film slows down so you can look at the plaster-blush, cast, inlays in the metal scaffolding. You can look at your phone, check out the ceiling, rock back and forth on your feet. There’s another room with another video, playing the entirety of the theatrical production. It’s on an old CRT television on the floor in front of another bench with enough space, again, only for two.
The CCA like many other galleries is making slow work of responding to the limitations imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic and to accessibility needs in general.
Before we went into the second room, the CCA flooded because of the bad weather. A pool of water crept out from beneath the door to a cupboard and we were asked to leave the gallery. I didn’t want to be caught in an electrical fire at the CCA. I went back on a different day to look at the old TV showing the play. Inspiring, depressingly-still-timely, and good.
If you got this far, thank you so much. And if you haven’t already you can subscribe to my mailing list. Never miss the unintelligible complaints of an art fag again!
This is only my opinion, one that is totally malleable. I, like everyone else, am a cuck to the institution. I do hope the CCA and all involved will please consider the application I sent them a couple of weeks ago, and dismiss any statements made herein. Love your hair, hope you win. —Andy x