Has Amie Siegel lost her marbles? No. If anything she's worryingly sane. Her show, Strata, at the South London Gallery is tastefully put together, tastefully curated, tastefully filmed, and just a bit dull. I nearly fell asleep more than once watching the 34 minute video Quarry that fills the large main space of the gallery.
The Chicago born, New York based, artist's first solo show in London seeks to explore how items become imbued with meaning. 2015's Quarry tells the story of marble. From its excavation, in what's claimed to be the world's deepest underground quarry, to its use in the luxury apartments of Manhattan skyscrapers.
The camera lingers long, and lovingly, on these rich people's apartments. It's design porn and, like most porn, it's soulless. Not only are the apartments devoid of life they're devoid of even any sign of life. They look like show homes rather than actual spaces people carry out the messy business of living in. Slowly they're revealed to be glossy models rather than real homes but it doesn't seem to matter. The point's been made.
The portentous, even pompous, music that plays throughout the film adds another strata to the ennui. It's almost as if Siegel has sought to shine a light on the longueurs of the luxuries of life. That's not what she's aiming for but that's what she's got.
There's another film upstairs. Fetish (2016) shows two unnamed men in Sigmund Freud's' house, now a museum, in St.John's Wood meticulously cleaning his collection of archaeological artefacts and statuettes of Egyptian Gods. Silently they hoover down his couch before slowly replacing the blankets and cushions just-so. It's not exactly thrilling to watch but, by dint of only being ten minutes long, at least I was able to stay awake.
By filming (and exhibiting) this ritualistic process Siegel seeks to delve 'further into the stratified relationships between culture, value and material" but I'd be lying if I said I was anything other than massively nonplussed and a trifle baffled.
The third, and final, part of the show is some actual marble. I love marble. The crystalline surfaces and foliations look beautiful. It's a lovely sensation to run your hand along its smooth, cold surfaces. I didn't touch the marble in this room though. For two reasons. Being behind glass it wasn't possible and, because Dynasty (that's the name she's given the piece) was sourced from the lobby of New York City's Trump Tower, it felt somehow contaminated. To think that monster had maybe once run his little orange Wotsit fingers along the surface was enough to put me off. They'd probably put the glass in front of it to protect the visitors from the marble rather than vice versa.
Of course the inclusion of something (bought on eBay) from the Trump Tower can't help but have political overtones and they were surely the reason for its inclusion in this show. Whilst I appreciate that art feels a duty to be ambiguous, and I don't expect any neat answers, I was still disappointed that this work, this entire show, didn't at least ask some more complex questions.
I hadn't paid any money to enter but I still felt a little short-changed. Amie Siegel is still young and her art can either continue to plough a self-regarding furrow or open itself up to a dialogue with the world. I think if she chooses the latter route she can go on to do great things.