On walking into Elevator you are welcomed by 6 plinth mounted speakers; Sanders' work Choir (2010) directly facing you as you enter the space is an audio loop of individuals asked to sing along to tracks selected by Sanders, ranging from Red Hot Chili Peppers, Robbie Williams and Europe.
The effect is one of exhaustive un-comfort, as we are only granted the audio of the pained singers desperately trying to keep abreast of the songs sans the music they are shackled too. From there on the gallery set-up is reminiscent of a call and response cyclicality requesting the viewer to suspend their attention spans and move transparently between the two artist’s practices and visions. A clear and unforgiving wooden seat or line is drawn in between Sanders and Johnstone's work, the latter a projection on the back wall comprising of 3 film works. The first of Johnstone's films Reducer (2010) is a deep and mournful collage of an aggressive footballer head butting a fellow player, followed by a war-based computer game. Colourloop (2010) a brazen minimalism of colours, and Madam I'm Adam (2010) a mix of footage from Mark Leckey winning the Turner prize in 2008, Justin Timberlake on piano and a death march. The result of such a collaboration is an understanding between two artists attempting to establish then break down the potential limits of authority.
As the show builds momentum the 1 hour and 15 minute loop works with and against itself. Bounced between Sanders’ Choir (2010) and Johnstone's films, the experience starts to become an investigation between the frustration of the image and the potential emancipation of sound.
The use of YouTube as a karaoke instrument by Sanders and as found footage by Johnstone stimulates a vast feeling of knowing and comfort, it is the wonder of the visual and audio masquerade which Sanders and Johnstone intentionally toy with. Whilst Sanders uses YouTube as a convenient karaoke substitute for her singers to sing along too, Johnstone splices his own and YouTube footage, building a chaotic visual argument. With this in mind, to suggest that Proto Bla is a show purely concerned with the potential of YouTube would be an irresponsible mis-justice, as both artists seem to use YouTube as a mere starting point for further negotiations and interruptions.
The show works as an example of how independent works can forge a collaborative dimension, Sanders and Johnstone's pieces stick to one another through a choreographed surround-sound. If Sanders produces an uncomfortable sound wall or backdrop, it is done through the intention of paving the way for Johnstone to step in and dismantle the harmony. Johnstone's images are a free fall of difficult romanticism and Sanders break down in the communication between the songs and the personal interpretations leaves a space for an enquiry into the mistrust of the responsibility of audio.
If the show asks for complete attention it doesn't demand for a dual between the works, the subtle osmosis between the work of Sanders and Johnstone makes for an interesting insight into the clear and true potential of collaboration. The last line of the press release confirms this assumption, requesting that 'it becomes critical that we speak...and you say nothing.' This bold statement not only determines the pace of the exhibition but does so by suggesting and confirming the ritual of listening, the passage of hearing and the potential of actual understanding.
Proto Bla was shown at Elevator Gallery from 25th February - 10th March, 2011