Conceptual and empirical approaches collide through perspectives of ‘otherness’ within the walls of Odd One Out/In. The expansive curation from Other Grounds Collective sees each piece on display calmly conflict with one another as the diversity adds to the definition, giving each artist – all of whom see themselves as a product of otherness – a stage for their societal sub-group.
Recent examinations of identity, exclusion and belonging came under the spotlight no more so than during the EU referendum. ‘I Regret How We Turned Out’ (2017) by Anže Ermenc illustrates a personal struggle amongst repercussions of the vote outcome. The Slovenian-born creative narrates his feelings using a romantic relationship as a metaphor for his socio-political views in an embroidered and sewn self-portrait. Growing up in Slovenia as a rejected homosexual changed when he came to Britain, but now Brexit brings a new, though all too familiar sense of rejection. Ermenc allows you to dwell in his self-pity whist enjoying the indulgence of his neat, attractive aesthetic.
Society’s dominant groups are pulled apart and questioned with ‘All Filla, No Killa’ (2017) by Kieran Leach. This exhibition defining statement manages to literally translate the exhibitions aim amidst art intended to stand out. Leach creates a wall hanging entirely of Polyfilla, commonly used to fix cosmetic blemishes on gallery walls. In a creation that could have undermined the premise of Odd One Out/In, this non-belonging piece secures its own identity as art, surpassing its sole purpose to finally become part of the show. But this opens the door to Leach’s second piece on display. A large cuboid of Polyfilla lingering in the corner, neither included nor excluded from the curation. It’s too poetic to be coincidence that ‘poly’ means ‘many’ in an environment designed to showcase various artists’ interpretation of the same subject.
‘What Rhymes with Orange?’ (2017) by Jak Ros instead focusses on the rise of less dominant alt-right groups in mainstream politics. Longstanding Loyalist organisation, The Orange Order, is a Protestant cult bearing relevancies to controversial topics alive in today’s political canvas. Appropriating traditional Orange Order garb into a rainbow coloured scarf, Ros questions his place as a queer, republican, socialist ‘Prod’ hailing from Northern Ireland and highlights the conflict of having close family members who follow the tradition and ideology he rejects. His bold vision and accompanying film carry messages of aversion to opposition of gay rights, as well as provocative images. Ros then wrestles with his own personal issues pointing out how they pale in comparison with issues facing gay people in other locations such as those in Putin’s Russia.
Otherness is evident throughout society for as far back as you wish to venture. As a result of collaboration, ‘You Came To Me’ (2017) by Mark McLeish and ‘Nervus’ (2017) by Joanne Murgatroyd use the persecution of witches as a historical viewpoint. McLeish incorporates ritual materials such as candles, feathers and soap – partly melted and destroyed with matches, where as Murgatroyd collects photography through social media to echo the practice of identifying ‘witch marks’, such as birth marks and other skin defects. Women were ostracised and damned for the smallest sign of so-called imperfection. A problem compounded in today’s size-0, airbrushed, beauty-conscious media.
With even further individualism on display, including ‘Perfect Defect’ (2017) by Amy Mizrahi – featuring a rare approach to her own hidden illness, to ‘At Odds End’ (2017) by Precious Innes – a non-comforming sculptural piece relating to the tension of not belonging, Odd One Out/In is a successful launch of Other Grounds Collective and sets a beguiling precedent for the future, allowing the viewer to add their own thoughts to an already saturated artistic think-tank.
Odd One Out/In, PS Mirabel, Manchester.
18 November – 16 December 2017.
Chris Connolly is a writer based in Manchester.