Damien Roach
Frieze 005

2nd September 2006 – 11th February 2007


Damien Roach, Quanta, Fries 005, 2006


Damien Roach,Quanta, Fries 005, 2006

At first sight many works by British artist Damien Roach (born 1980) appear to be unexceptional. This is because he uses everyday objects and existing imagery for his examination of conventional visual associations and symbols.


In Quanta Roach projects an eleven-channel sequence of circular slides onto the frieze in the entrance area of the Kunst Halle. Every time they enter the Kunst Halle visitors see a completely different combination of images. The images also vary with changes in the light, sometimes almost disappearing, sometimes shining so brightly that they can be seen from the street outside.


From a vast personal archive of photographs Roach chose one hundred, chiefly from current affairs magazines of the 1960s, such as Life and National Geographic. The selection process formed part of the artist’s ongoing investigation into the value systems we use to make sense of the world around us and the manipulation of its contents through altered perception. The pictures include a mass baptism in a river, communal wood-chopping on a farm and exotic tribal rituals. All the people in these pictures clearly hope that their actions will help them to lead a life with a deeper connection to the world and others around them. Among the images are icons of modern architecture, buildings intended to effect profound changes in people’s living conditions and in the appearance of modern cities.


In physics the term “quanta” denotes separate, indivisible natural units. Taking his cue from this scientific model, Roach projects his slides as circles. He welcomes combinations of images that reveal the existence of parallel layers of reality, connecting various marginal or failed solutions to the problem of human condition. Many of these earlier experiments with different forms of human consciousness and coexistence seem to have exhausted their potential and are now sometimes rejected out of hand. But alternative lifestyles of the 1960s still stand for something – a moment infused with the potential for widespread social and psychic freedom. Today, it has become a truism to note that the logic of the mass media is all-encompassing and unavoidable. It is less well known that the media operate with model images similar to those current in the 1960s, however much we may now smile at ’60s utopias. Roach’s images also convey a sense of transgression, showing people attempting to abolish the distinction between individual and community. Photographs of hallucinogenic plants and natural phenomena such as fractal formations blur the distinction between human frameworks of understanding and the underlying structures of the natural world itself.


With this project, Roach investigates patterns in alternative approaches to living in the post-Second World War era to discern whether there is a remaining value in some of these methods. In simultaneously offering up a number of these options for our consideration, Quanta makes visible often starting connections between these seemingly disparate systems. As the slow procession of images itself throws up potential solutions by displaying these units in ever shifting combinations, the eruption of new potentiality is posed as inextricably situated within a continuum of shifts, mutations and reappearances of forms and structures. Here, paths through temporal and geographical space are notched out by Quanta.

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