David Sherry

Posted on October 28, 2010

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An article about David Sherry’s work by Neil Mulholland on Axis.

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Looking Through Tom Cruise's Eyes

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“David Sherry’s drawings function as lists of ideas, conceived as a group of works. They capture a conscious moment, jumping from one thought to the next, from flights crashing into each other to the existence of a parallel universe, to the rationale of animals in trouble. In these works the mundane world of objects and actions collide with the dreams and aspirations of another reality. Other works observe life’s preconditions and ask why we enforce them. Sherry views those works as a set of collapsing points. ‘To hug a stranger in the street is to observe a set of unspoken social rules unravelling. To fly several kites at once is not only extremely difficult but it also ‘cocks a snook’ at the limitations of the real world. Many of my works are made from planned and altered social experiences and observe our casual interactions from new perspectives’.

Neil Mulholland on David Sherry

David Sherry’s work is a comedy of manners composed with the lightest of touches – by doing as little as possible he always seems to be on the verge of a great anthropological revelation. He initially came to public attention for performance works that satirise the machismo of 70s live art. A video featuring Sherry sewing pieces of balsa wood to his feet, ‘Stitching’ (2001) is typically underplayed, filmed in a blase how-to fashion, domesticating the masculine bravado of self-mutilation performance with a vulnerability that is more Delia Smith than Evil Knievel. Sherry’s performances nevertheless share the deadpan character of Chris Burden’s, his comparable descriptive tone belying a sharp observational wit and a rigorous self-editing process that belies canonical live art.

‘Carrying a Bucket of Water About for a Week’ involved doing precisely this. Sherry negotiated the routine aspects of daily life, walking down the street, going to the shops, getting on the bus, going to work, going down the pub, all carrying a bucket filled with water. To those who noticed this activity, Sherry was either an obsessive compulsive or a window cleaner. For all this might constitute a repeated and unchanged routine it was oddly exceptional, a notable rupture in the activities of the city, albeit one that was deliberately understated. The activity acts as a means of unifying the allegedly separate spheres of regulated work and the unregulated world of play, since play, or making art, is Sherry’s job. Its difficult to imagine this as a fervent act of dissent, Sherry doesn’t offer any crude agitational catharsis, manifesto for cultural renewal or hot tips for political emancipation, rather he develops something closer to a social crisis that stops short of a genuine breakdown – all the hallmarks of great black humour.

Sherry’s performances, in this sense, subtly test the patience and sympathies of the general public who witness them and as such allow him to examine the limits of the social contract. In many of his works his deliberately half-hearted effort to dissent from social codes can transgress gently into the anti-social. ‘Avoiding Eye Contact for One Seven Day Period’ (2003) and ‘I Haven’t Touched Another Person in Months’ (2003) play with social decorum, blatantly practicing bad manners yet hardly in a way worthy of an ASBO. Sherry has also adopted the opposite tactic, being Confrontationally Polite to shopkeepers by thanking them for a prolonged period of time. As part of October, an ambient public art event organised by the Glasgow Project Room in St. Vincent Street, the busy business district in Glasgow, Sherry dressed as a woman he knows who suffers from a degenerative mental illness. Resembling Norman Bates clothed as his mother, he stood quietly behind a partially opened doorway grinning at passers by. There was no way of guessing the purpose of this activity, it could have been done for a bet, for charity or as a genuine cry for help. ‘Advancement into Retreat’ received varied reactions ranging from supportive and encouraging to obstreperous and goading. At times Sherry became the focal point in the battleground for public space, as builders on a nearby site guarded him from the unwanted attentions of young hooligans.

There’s the encouraging thought that underachievement can be glorious and disappointment a thing of beauty as we witness Sherry attempting to run for buses he can’t catch (‘Running for the Bus’), buying all the rolos in the shop (‘No Rolo’), applying for inappropriate jobs (‘Serial Psycho Interviewee’ 2002-03), spending the run up to Christmas watching TV while eating biscuits and drinking tea in a music shop window in a busy shopping street, or waiting around in shops after ‘Being Asked to Leave’. Perhaps Sherry has finally discovered the wonder cure for schadenfreude.

Copyright symbol Neil Mulholland, 2007.

Breaking the Hug Barrier

A performance work where Sherry attempts to hug members of the public under the guise of mistaken identity, breaching the the norms and standards of the ‘hug barrier’.

weblink Breaking the Hug Barrier, Part II: Breaching (pdf document)

Biography

David Sherry (b. 1974, Northern Ireland) studied at the University of Ulster at Belfast (1994-1997) and Glasgow School of Art (MFA, 1998-2000). Solo exhibitions include Catalyst Arts, Belfast (2006), Villa Concordia, Germany (2006), M and M Gallery, Antwerp (2005) and Jack Hanley, San Francisco (2005). Select group exhibitions include Temple Bar Gallery, Dublin (2006), Work Place, Newcastle (2006), Flaca, London (2005) and Afterhours, with Glassbox, Paris (2004). In 2003 Sherry was selected for Zenomap, representing Scotland at the Venice Biennale and was shortlisted for Beck’s Futures. Most recently, since April 2006 he has been on a residency at Villa Concordia Bamberg in Germany.

Upcoming projects include a group show with Luke Fowler, David Sherry, Elke Zauner and Gerald Zschorschat the Kunstverein Passau, Germany until 11 February, a solo exhibition at Mother’s Tankstation, Dublin (4 April – 12 May), and a programme of performances at Intermedia, Glasgow in June. He is currently based in Glasgow.

weblink www.dave-sherry.com
weblink Mother’s Tankstation, Dublin

David Sherry’s website.

January 2007.”

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