Dicking around

In his forthcoming show, Otto Bercham presents three new works that take a humorous swipe at macho video art. Robert Montgomery checks it out and discovers the joys of sausage throwing.

Otto Berehem is an American artist who :ompleted a postgraduate MA at Edinburgh College of Art last year and now lives and works in Amsterdam. He returns to Edinburgh this month for a solo exhibition at the Collective Gallery. Berchem is conscious of placing himself on the borderline between being a conceptual artist and schoolboy prankster. There are two video pieces in this show the first hand catching Spanish sausage is a reworking of a 1968 film by Richard Serra called Hand Catching Lead. The lead of Serra’s film is replaced in Berchem’s work by a Spanzabratn'urst.

The sausage seems at first glance to be a direct visual metaphor for a phallus. Does the artist see any other potential reading ofthis work? ‘No,‘ confirms Berchem. ‘it's definitely meant to portray a limp dick. a flaccid penis.’ The intention here is to make the underlying machismo in Serra’s work explicit. ‘Being an American. and my initial artistic training being in the States. I really got Richard Serra shoved down my throat. l respect his work on one level. but you know its just so goddamn macho.‘ Serra is the most prominent artist in a school of American

sculptors who take the process of their work very seriously. In their attitude the subject of a work of art is the process of making the work. and it ends there. Artists who work in this way fetid to take their materials very seriously and to respect the integrity of a chosen material. It is the presence ofthis seriousness. somewhere in the background. that allows Berchem's work to create bathos when it collapses willingly into innuendo. This work really is very funny.

The humour comes across becattsc the production of Het‘chem's work is smooth and doesn't get in the way of the idea. Berehem has no pretensions. however. to being a craftsman. ‘l was the one catching the sausage. someone else dropped it and a friend was running the camera. Someone asked me. “well whose work is it?" but that‘s kinda irrelevant. lt my idea so it‘s my responsibility. You know it's like a movie - if it's a great film then everyone can claim some success. If a crap film then everyone blames the director.’ The production of Behind You

Chorizo surprise: Otto Berchem’s hand catching spanlsh sausage

(Amsterdam) is equally unobtrusive. At first glance. a

series of photo studio portraits of pretty ordinary looking guys and girls projected life size. Until you notice clues of a ubiquitous seated figure obscured behind each one. This is the artist. waiting patiently behind his subjects but never getting to take centre stage.

This work is admittedly at the playful end of conceptual art. If you are under the preconception that conceptual work is inaccessible. see this. As Berchem says. ‘lfsomeone comes into the gallery off the street because they‘ve got nothing better to do. maybe it’s raining out and they see Hand Catching Lead then that’s one thing. but ifthey see my work. they‘re gonna laugh. No matter if they‘re aware of the art references.‘ The effect of this laughter is to hurnanise the situation of the gallery and to demystify the thing we call ‘art.’

Boys Will Be Boys at the Collective Gallery. Edinburgh [—22 July.

Changing man

Patrick Lumb obviously believes that changing your pants is the first step to changing your life. A pair of pristine, whlte Calvin Klein’s printed with the words Change Is Good is the title of his first Scottish exhibition and the first piece of work in the show. ‘change those pants, change is good,’ he exclaims, marching up and down the corridors of Edinburgh’s llemarco gallery.

As a motto for living, ‘Change ls l Good’ Is pretty positive and it’s certainly done Patrick Lumb no hami. llavlng gone through the usual hard times atter graduating, being a bricklayer and living in a hut in ' Iortolk without hot water, Patrick sold 50 drawings to one go let £2,800 and


», ,~ had a job painting hyper-realist ‘1 a ; cartoon bill boards of the lone Banger

Patrick Lumb: panting for success

1 went off to Chicago to do his post

I grad. ‘It was a chance to see all my favourite paintings for real but when l . got there I didn’t want to paint so I shot a lot of Super-8 film and got into computer graphics and photography. I

1:... _ and that got me into using acrylic ' ; paint.’

3 Whereas his early British still lites and portraits are tame and

i conventional his more recent, large

! canvases are much wilder. Lowe,

l painterly areas are combined with

j carefully drawn decorated borders,

3 inspired by the luxurious details of

g Italian frescos and tiny, jewel-like

! birds with exotic plumage are used as i symbols of freedom and flight. Patrick 1 admits the change in environment had : a huge effect on his work and his

paintings are scattered with diverse

i images accumulated during foreign

I travel and lodged in his imagination.

The works on paper were made in

i between teaching art at Oakham

i school in Rutland. Mixing torn paper,

5 photography, calligraphy and splodgy I paint with quickly scribbled gestures it’s easier to see the influence of

some of his idols. lle Koonlng’s use of paint, Boston’s surrealism and Bauschenberg’s mixed media are all represented. ‘Whlle I was in Britain l was mating dark, dour paintings because i was frustrated by not having enough money. When I left I wanted to use bright colours and decoration.’

For someone in his 203 Patrick lumb has crammed a lot of changes into his life. llot content with the culture shock of leaving llorfolk for LA, he and his wife and two sons are planning to swap the gentle, English countryside of Oakham for the harsh desert landscape of Las Vegas. ‘I love the neon signs and the vastness of the desert, it’s very spiritual. I’m going to paint non-stop for two years, then I may go back to teaching,’ he says with the confidence of someone who knows he’s on a roll. (Gill Roth)

Change Is Good at the Dentarco Gallery, Edinburgh until 8 July.

62 The List 30 Junsl3 Jul 1995