Popoccultural (Angelic bodies flying through cultural trash?)

By Josephine Berry, 10 January 1997

Art review

This was a real white elephant stall of a show. It even included elephant shit. But despite its breadth of cultural paraphernalia you couldn't call Popoccultural eclectic because the artists had too many themes in common: an interest in bricolage, an appetite for pop culture and religiosity, a flirtation with psychoanalysis and an infantalising take on sexuality to name the most pronounced. Paul McCarthy's work wrestles with Austrian winter sports, Hitler's athletic inadequacies and that funny Tyrolian habit of wearing the hair from goats' groins on your hat. Chris Ofili embellishes elephant turds with glitter and makes decorative chains from afros. Ellen Cantor upscales pubescent doodles into murals dealing with the collision between teenage dreams of love and potent sexual initiation. Religion and the idolisation of pop cultural artefacts was, not surprisingly, the favourite cocktail recipe for Popoccultural. Jeremy Deller printed the lyrics from pop songs on fluorescent posters and added phoney biblical attributions. They looked like the sort of thing you'd find pinned to the sandwich-board worn by an apocalyptic soothsayer. Jeffrey Vallance presented an ambiguously straight but kitsch account of the festival of Die Heilige Lanze. Chris Ofili enshrined a completely black Rubik's Cube in what appeared to be a dual homage to Malevich and 80s nerd toys. Dan Graham's video Rock my Religion shed a more historicising and perhaps less intuitively guided light on our pop-cultural circumstances. And John Cussans and Ranu Mukherjee brought up the geo-sociological rear guard with their mixture of South American Catholicism, 50s style kitsch à la Elvis, occult and the corrupt politics of the drug Mafia. Popoccultural provided a chaotic but surprisingly cogent parade of ephemera that works both as a surface image and depth analysis of our times. It's not the first time, but nor was it the worst time.

South London Gallery, 30.10.1996 - 27.11.1996

Josephine Berry <josie AT>