Rebecca Birch at the ICA

As part of a 50 week marathon, that sees the Institute of Contemporary Art invite a new artist each week for 50 weeks to exhibit in their fig-2 space, I visited Rebecca Birch’s performance/installation/journey Lichen Hunting on the West Coast (2015).

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We entered through a narrow, dingy corridor that led us away from the pristine main gallery, into a darkened, intriguing space. At first I felt as if we were trespassing, had taken a wrong turn, but we were beckoned in by Rebecca Birch and huddled around her make-shift piece as she resumed her story. Lichen Hunting on the West Coast told the story of a journey made by Birch, using a study of a lichen covered stick as a kind of narrative device from which the tale unravelled. Birch sat at a low table and recounted her journey, whilst sketching out the scenes as they were projected on the wall. At certain points in the story she would move to another projector and begin short films she had made, projecting them onto amorphous plaster sculptures that she re-positioned throughout.

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The performance was an intimate affair that felt spontaneous and improvisational, yet progressed seamlessly and easily. I really enjoyed the composition of the installation. The projections overlapped and distorted, whilst Birch played around with the sculptures. The space felt like a laboratory or studio rather than a white cube, which perfectly suited the rambling, changeable narrative element. The piece was a one-on-one conversational performance, but we sat in the back, looking on, with one or two others. The intimacy of the work made me feel as if taking photos or notes was inappropriate and that we should engage by listening and watching, being present.

More information and images at the fig-2 site.

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