The Shock of the Now Issue 12
Featured Exhibition Text

Damien Roach
'SCHEMA' Solo Exhibition
6th October 2021

A plastic replica sushi platter sat atop a neatly arranged stockpile of caffeine-free Diet Cokes, a white flag waving in the artificial wind of a floor fan, an oversized SIM card fashioned from anodised aluminium, record sleeves for The Beatles eponymous ninth studio album, more commonly known as the White Album, arranged in a four by four grid. These are but a few of the seemingly incongruous and inconsequential objects that comprise Damien Roach‘s current solo exhibition at Seventeen, sculptural curios that furnish the gallery’s two rooms, themselves wallpapered with sweeping shots of sunset or moonrise over an ocean expanse. The dual meaning of the exhibition’s title SCHEMA - at once the organizational blueprint for a database and our psychological framework for categorizing information - serves as a foothold towards unpicking and understanding Roach’s paradoxical presentation. In fact, it is precisely this grapple for comprehension that Roach aims to impart upon the viewer, having spent a two-decade career repositioning, reappropriating and recontextualising the recognisable or the unremarkable, always coaxing us to challenge our preconceptions and question our surroundings.

The exhibition’s titular cognitive function allows for the instant analysis of encountered information, based on previous patterns of thought or learned behaviour, but struggles when presented with contradictions to these established classifications, often manipulating them to fit the framework or simply chalking them up as exceptions. Roach’s exhibition contains a multitude of exceptions, exacerbated perhaps by the gallery setting and our perception of the art object. A discarded coffee cup, ice-cream cone and beer bottle are strewn throughout the space, creating “facsimile spills” aptly entitled Entropy, 2021, resembling early signs of degeneration. Bruce Banner swiftly cycles through enraged Hulk transformations as the viewer passes by a collection of lenticular postcards, meanwhile searching for supposed similarities between a QR code, blank crossword puzzle and chequered chessboard.

VHS tapes span floor to ceiling in Chronos (Totem), 2021, perhaps simply a satirical modern incarnation of the cited Greek philosophical personification of time, but one can’t help hunt for clues within the titles scrawl onto the video’s facades (and marvel at the eclectic viewing habits that led to one tape at differing times housing The Thomas Crown Affair, Swordfish and Catherine Tate). Finally, Roach employs elemental AI technology to confuse and confound the viewer, as marginal masterpieces by Jusepe de Ribera and Gerard van Honthorst are disfigured and deformed whilst retaining some recognition, and Emily Dickinson’s oeuvre is revised and recited by an animated, expressionless visage.