henry bond by emily tsingou

Henry Bond: Ice Box Athens, Greece

Henry bond’s recent show at the Ice Box Gallery in Athens consisted of two large-scale photographs and a feature-film-length videotape. The photographs depicted a woman walking by herself through Hyde Park at dusk, and the London international telephone exchange. The video showed the artist’s television projects in a completely reworked version for this show. The viewer is escorted by the continuous buzz of townscapes shown on video, as they look around the exhibition space. Cityscape prevailed: views shown from the car, shot in the street, urban images reflecting the myths and codes of everyday life. There is, though, a certain bareness in these pictures; the image cannot be absorbed, let alone consumed, in one look. There are no stereotypical poses of the people caught in this, yet a frozen quality gives the pictures a certain uneasiness, even causes discomfort to the viewer who does not understand how these are meant to be approached. These pictures neither reveal nor conceal anything. Although one sees the typical instead of the unique in these pictures, it is difficult to put one’s finger on what makes them exceptional. However closely or repeatedly one might look, one cannot make up one’s mind whether these images are utopias converted into dystopias, or the opposite. And it is in this sense of ironic twist—something like a tape recorder on automatic return—that Henry Bond’s images (both in his photography and video) are interesting.

Bond’s work is esoterically affiliated to the imagery revealed in films such as Antonioni’s “Blow Up” or Nicolas Roeg’s “Performance,” in the sense that there is a street-level realism and a semi-documentary emphasis fused with an almost poetic vision that disallows further expanding. This could be everlasting the video could run forever images of theis kind, continuing to feed the viewer’s desire for more. And this is probably the most important element of this show—identification is not offered as the essential element contained in all works. Bond’s images are not about identity. There is no individuality, no intrusion into private life, no reference to a specific environment. There are foggy pictures, recognition of the poetics of urban life with all the resonances this includes, through the faithful records of the artist’s daily encounters. They manage to transcend codes of interpretation ranging from politics and race, to sexuality, identity and so on, Henry Bond manages to create powerful imagery on the surface and the essence of everyday life.

Emily Tsingou

Athens, Greece

1995