George & Jørgen is a small gallery in narrow Morocco Street, just around the corner from the White Cube, Bermondsey. It is easy to miss, with no ostentatious signage or flashy shop window front. Visitors must overcome the suspicion that they are in the wrong place, push open the grey front door and climb the stairs to the top floor, where the gallery occupies three rooms. Here, until August 3rd, they will find CAPITAL.
CAPITAL collects the work of seven artists: Emma Charles, Fergus Heron, Thorsten Knaub, Karen Knorr, Martin Newth, Eva Stenram, and Danny Treacy. Together, their work examines the notion of ‘capital’ city, probing London’s status as a national and international centre. Finance and trade, history and progress, surveillance and power: all collide in a combination of still photography and video.
There is a feeling of intimacy to the exhibition, a sense of hidden things revealed: Knorr’s Gentlemen takes us inside the cloistered world of the London gentlemen’s club; Charles’ After the Bell reveals city offices out of trading hours; Heron captures the Bentall shopping centre, empty of customers.
One of the most compelling works is Thorsten Knaub’s London/London. This is a video installation comprised of two films. The first is a Super 8 taken by Knaub’s father on a family holiday to London in 1974. The second is a present day, frame-by-frame replica of the Super 8. It is fascinating to watch them side by side. Certainly there are differences: fashions have changed, crowds seem larger, and CCTV cameras loom in the background. Yet much has remained the same. New buildings have appeared on the London skyline, but the basic physical makeup of the city is remarkably similar. Perhaps this is because Knaub is revisiting tourist monuments (Westminster, Picadilly Circus, and Trafalgar Square, for instance), but it highlights the contradictory streams of change and stasis that pervade a great city.
CAPITAL is an intriguing approach to London in this year of Jubilee celebrations and Olympic Games. It lifts the lid on the unseen city, from privileged club members to cleaners in the financial district. Confronting viewers with conflicting strands of poverty and wealth, permanence and transcience, the exhibition confirms that a ‘capital’ is nothing if not contrary.
CAPITAL is at George & Jørgen until 3 August, 2012. For more information visit www.georgeandjorgen.com.