| Eastern Province Herald, August 1 2000 |
Alborough exhibition offers viewers another world
By Kin Bentley
Enter the gallery housing this exhibition and you enter another world. Often, a solo exhibition can profoundly influence the ambience of the space in which it is hung, by virtue of the general quality and style of the objects on display. But this artist is different. He has deliberately set out to create a new environment through his installation - and it is up to us, the viewers, to interpret it.
My initial feeling was of having entered a somewhat alien world. The room is in near darkness, and each of the 13-odd white plastic sculptural units is lit from beneath with fluorescent lighting. A "roadwork" of car reflectors links seven dome-shaped "buildings" and four flat double-storey "buildings".
In the road are two plastic containers, one full of batteries, the other empty. Step back, and you start to view the entire space as the exhibit, including the walls, the arched ceiling, gallery desk, teapot and cup, telephone and so on. One could almost expect to see small spaceships plying their way between the shapes.
But, contrasting with this sense of the futuristic (the exhibition, fittingly, has an odyssey planned across South Africa until April 2001), there is also a sense of the very old. Four sheets of white material hang from fluorescent tubes on opposite walls. Each has a series of rust-coloured markings which somehow recall the famous Turin Shroud, which purportedly bears an imprint of Jesus's body after the crucifixion.
I enjoyed the effect, but it was only on speaking to the artist, a lecturer in sculpture at Stellenbosch University, that the full implications of the similarity with the shroud struck home. For yes, the sheets also carry an imprint, if not of some divine radiation, then at least of some electronic process, which lies at the heart of this fascinating installation.
The exhibition is a living organism, having started its life at the Grahamstown Festival a couple of months ago. After its month-long sojourn here it heads to various other centres in South Africa, culminating in Johannesburg in April next year.
Alan explained that on each of the flat sculptures, coils of material with nails embedded in them have a low-voltage battery-generated current running through them. This leads to corrosion of the nails, with the rust slowly permeating the absorbent coils of cloth, and the sheets on which they stand.
When the exhibition was shown in Grahamstown, it was configured differently. And there were no stained cloths on display. These are the by-products of the Grahamstown experience, as are a container of dead batteries, and orange-stained coils affixed to a central domed unit. With each subsequent exhibition, more stained cloths will be generated, and displayed.
I am normally a cynic when it comes to so-called conceptual art, but this exhibition is exceptional. Using simple ready-made objects, like plastic clothes pegs, cotton reels, syringes, and a bit of basic electronics, a world of great visual complexity and integrity is created.
And, in this high-tech age there is also a computer with his personal website, where full details of the project can be accessed. If you'd like a preview of his cyber catalogue, go to www.alanalborough.co.za.
The exhibition runs until August 28.