Eddie Peake @ White Cube

‘There’s often a sort of quest for identity in my work – and that, I think, is the staggeringly beautiful thing about being an artist. You are afforded the luxury of creating a space for yourself as an individual in the world.’

Starting a press release with a colloquial quotation about ‘identity’ wouldn’t usually have tempted me to see this exhibition but the vibrant pink walls and instagram coverage tipped the scales. Theres many facets to this exhibition, divided up spaces that do come together along the theme of Peake’s childhood and upbringing in Finsbury’s ‘urban’ environment.

What was great was the immersive-ness of the space – its transition to a club like atmosphere and areas divided up and sealed off with large medical curtains that you had to wade through until you found streaming videos of performances. I liked the variety on show; the use of space, different mediums, including painting or mixed media.

Continuing the theme of revealing and concealing, an airy white curtain hangs full-length from the ceiling, creating a natural spiralling passageway, in the centre of which a split-screen projection shows four dancers, each locked in an individual, looping sequence of complex, choreographed movement.

These projections were probably the highlight for me, the climax of the exhibition as I waded around aimlessly until I found this section. The dancers’ abstractly synced movements and aesthetic nudity proved a mesmerising watch.

The quality of the work was there, but there was a lack of meaning and depth. Autobiographical, fine, but it felt like an poor excuse as a concept. The meaning of ones own personal upbringing is not always easily communicated to others. There was too a sense of voyeurism that relates to the autobiographical nature of the work as the artist himself was living or producing work inside a cube within the gallery space – it was possible but intentionally awkward to catch a view of him in this space with its de-constructivist walls, toying with our desire to observe or perhaps spy on someone.

The White Pube aptly picked up on this voyeuristic aspect in the work before descending into social justice warrior mode about Peake’s lack of ethnic background not justifying his work.

He was like…. less on display, protected by some walls and you could only peep a small glance at him moving around. It felt uneven, less like solidarity more like a stunt. it felt kinda manipulative,,, to put urself in there too, but to make way for only your privacy,,, to force another marginalised body to perform on your behalf while kinda halfway with them,,, but not really. Like… it just made me kinda uncomfortable. And i think that is because of the artist’s identity. It feels fair to bring it up, bc bc u know why. I am made uncomfortable by the name Stroud Green Road for a work made by a white middle class artist. I feel like Eddie Peake performs a role very very well, but it is still performing and it is still a role. he is mimicking the dance moves to a song that doesn’t rly belong to him.

What frustrates me is that the art world assumes you already know a lot of artists names. I really can’t say i’ve heard of Eddie Peake before, and this is his third show with the White Cube to date. I enjoyed aspects of this exhibition, and the exhibition as a whole, but I wish there was a better concept underlying it. I also did not understand the performance as Peake came out in a strange outfit and start making noises on a blowhorn. There was no explanation of this spontaneous act. In summary, aesthetic and provoking yes, intellectually stimulating, not at all.

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