Walead Beshty’s latest installation at the Barbican is a rubbish idea. The UK-born, LA-based artist has used the cyanotype process to create over 12,000 prints at the Barbican centre. The prints, however, are projected onto detritus: cardboard, newspapers, bank statements and discarded art show tickets.
The result is a collage, pinned up inside the Curve space and is intimidating in its scale. The installation serves as a timeline of Beshty’s life and work, starting with the work done in Beshty’s LA studio in 2013 and finishing with the work done in October 2014, after a month-long residency at the Barbican.
The installation is pleasing to look at. The cyanotype is an early photographic process invented by Sir John Herschel in 1842. The result is a stark blue background with a white silhouette of objects from Beshty’s studio.
It succeeds because the viewer can create a personal narrative out of this timeline, whether it is political or as a comment on the sheer amount of information available to us. Indeed, the exhibition feels like a social media prototype, a cardboard- based Twitter tacked onto a cave wall.
Beshty’s work rewards exploration but will frustrate those who want to examine every last detail. A lot of the prints are inaccessible because they are pinned up so high. This inaccessibility is no more apparent than in the installation’s mouthful of a title: A Partial Disassembling of an Invention Without a Future: Helter-Skelter and Random Notes in Which the Pulleys and Cogwheels Are Lying Around at Random All Over the Workbench.
Do not let the title put you off; Beshty’s installation is a manic look at an artist at work, detailing his life and his process. It is impressive to look at and rewards closer inspection.
At eye level, it is possible to see newspapers – with headlines such as “Behind the masks in Ukraine, many faces of rebellion” – and objects from Beshty’s studio printed onto pieces of cardboard. The installation includes the mundane, as well as sensitive information.
Until 8 February 2015 The Curve Barbican Centre Silk Street, EC2Y 8DS www.barbican.org.uk