Eva Gold’s “Shadow Lands”

Jenny Wu

April 5, 2024
Silke Lindner, New York
March 15–April 20, 2024

The critique in London-based artist Eva Gold’s first US solo exhibition is spare and subtle. Consisting of six works on paper and two sculptural installations, the show conveys, in meticulous details and material choices, a message about the coercive economic power embedded in everyday cultural transactions. At the heart of the exhibition is “Pilot and Passengers” (all works 2024), a series of colored-pencil drawings of stills from Benny’s Video, Michael Haneke’s 1992 film about a violence-obsessed teenager disenchanted by his affluent upbringing, who murders a stranger in his parents’ home.

Gold’s understated drawings, hung in identical, nineteen-by-twenty-six-inch frames, line three of the gallery’s walls. In Haneke’s film, a low tracking shot follows several pairs of hands as Benny, the teenager, covertly collects money for a pyramid scheme called Pilot and Passengers that he introduced to his friends during school choir practice. Gold’s lighter, less saturated images emphasize general forms over details. From afar, viewers might mistakenly believe that they are spying on people holding hands. Up close, one still feels like a voyeur, since Gold’s static renderings allow the eye to linger on the creases in the fabric of the boys’ jeans, the threaded borders of their back pockets, the baby fat on their hands, and the hesitant curl of their fingers as they nudge cash into each other’s palms.

Gold’s drawings capture discreet moments of persuasion: a boy receiving a signal from another—a touch—and choosing, in each instance, to opt in to the illicit activity. The drawings also depict a structural phenomenon: the facilitation of power and capital via cultural activities, such as choir rehearsal, that serve as pretenses, allowing actors to hide their hands. Haneke’s film is likewise steeped in malaise. From the onset, Benny enjoys an illusion of impunity rooted in the class difference between him and his working-class victim. After Benny murders her, his parents devise a plan to cover his tracks. They appear even more unmoored from reality than their fourteen-year-old son, desperate to protect the privilege they believe protects them.

Gold’s homage to Haneke is accompanied by two installations, Insider/outsider and Echo Chamber. The former consists of skeins of barbed wire stretched across the gallery’s ceiling, spaced about two feet apart, simultaneously evoking bodily danger and everyday agricultural infrastructure. (Benny’s Video opens with Benny watching footage of a pig being slaughtered at his family’s second home in the countryside.) The latter comprises eight metal lawn chairs whose fabric seats have been replaced with brown and beige leather. Arranged in a circle and reminiscent of a seventies aesthetic, the chairs illustrate what the press release calls “like-minded people” who have “turned their backs” on those outside their clique.

Subtle evocations of ruralism are embedded in this work as well. The choice of lawn chairs, rather than office chairs or upscale furniture, suggests a communitarian way of life. Despite being outfitted with leather, a material more expensive than the originally mass-manufactured chairs’ likely vinyl or polyester seats, the chairs in Echo Chamber are imbued with a tinge of destitution. The beige leather string twined over one of the frames, for instance, is unraveling. Two of the chairs are scattered with British and American coins in meager denominations—a heptagonal fifty pence coin, a dull penny—serving as subtle visual cues not only of regional affiliation but also of class. Another chair bears a small Union Jack sticker. Faded and scuffed, it brings to mind the fallout from the 2016 Brexit referendum. As Gold’s leather-string chair suggests, certain nationalist dreams are coming undone. The chairs have their backs turned not only on viewers—who can in theory infiltrate the ring by walking in the gaps between the chairs; though when I visited the gallery, most did not—but also on the boys in Pilot and Passengers. Like the self-absorbed adults in Haneke’s film, the implied community in Echo Chamber have opted to neglect future generations.

Although Benny’s Video and “Shadow Lands” both address economic and cultural power, the former lambasts those who possess it in disproportionate quantities, while the latter illuminates the common conditions among the disenfranchised. While Haneke’s film takes the form of allegory, Gold’s exhibition presents an open-ended proposition. Here, power does not play out its tragic conclusion. Rather, it has been put on pause. Banknotes linger midway between hands; barbed wire hovers in the air. The chairs, although arranged in a closed formation, could easily be moved, suggesting that someone still has a chance to change the scene.

Installation, Film
Institutional Critique

Jenny Wu is a critic and educator based in New York City.

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Silke Lindner
April 5, 2024

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