S Mark Gubb – ‘My Empire of Dirt’ 16 January – 28 February 2009
My Empire of Dirt is S Mark Gubb’s first solo show at Ceri Hand Gallery, Liverpool. This exhibition extends his preoccupation with our passage through life, and the social, theological, political and economic systems and structures that affect our existence and behaviour.
Central to the exhibition is a shotgun shack*. The first ‘room’ is constructed from scavenged materials, referencing the crudely constructed favellas of Brazil and shanty towns of other developing nations.
The dimensions of this room are 2 metres square, the amount of land a person in the British Isles would own were the land mass to be divided equally amongst its current occupants.
The dimensions of the second room are based on those of holding cells from the American prisons Camp Delta, Camp X-Ray and Guantanamo Bay. Providing basic comfort and zero privacy, these cells have been architecturally engineered to promote depression and suicide in their occupants. The third room is a physical realisation of an open grave and the literal interpretation of the exhibition title.
Around the architectural installation are pasted a series of posters which draw their aesthetic influences from political and protest posters: And you could have it all incorporates five colours used by the West to indicate the level of terrorist threat at any given time. Do It is reminiscent of Nike advertising campaigns, but also the phrase identified by prosecutors when playing Better By You, Better Than Me by Judas Priest backwards, following the attempted suicide of two young Judas Priest fans (an accusation which led the band to an American court room accused of causing these attempted suicides). Usted Sufre Pero Por Que takes a line from a Napalm Death song You suffer…but why? and translates it in to Spanish, using an internet translation tool.
This juxtaposition of the sculptural triptych with the posters, suggests a wider discourse around history, culture and belief systems. Gubb invites us to reflect on our moral codes and desire and ability to impact upon and change the world we inhabit.
*a shotgun shack is a traditional two or three roomed American farmers dwelling whereby all the rooms were connected in a straight line, so named because with the doors open a shotgun could potentially be fired through the back door and out the front door without hitting anything on the way through.