Irina Korina at GRAD

Site-specific installations are always an interesting concept for contemporary art galleries, as the value of an artist's project is thrown into the visitor experience, as we are left wondering what will become of the work(s) after the closing of the exhibition. At GRAD, W1W, (Gallery for Russian Art and Design), Irina Korina has produced exactly this, an installation which inhabits the space so effectively that its tones of film set design transform both the gallery and the viewer's sensory experience entirely. Part of this transformation takes the form of the rule that the viewer must enter through the gallery's fire exit. From this point, a dark tunnel, resembling a bomb shelter, leads us into the main exhibition, where sound, sculpture and installation come together to form an unsettling yet familiar realm.

Corrugated metal paves the path, and this material is used again in an upright position to disorientate as we try to understand and navigate Korina's work. A jarring soundtrack, to the point of often being excruciating, has equal presence to the transfixing sculpture. As the space draws you down a narrow route, the almost-reflection of the metal fixtures provide a bizarre illusion that again still feels highly familiar. It is at this point of bewilderment that we find the sculptures, positioned and curated in such a way that coincides brilliantly with the surreal environment and soundscape.

Installation view: Irina Korina, Destined to be Happy, 2016. GRAD, London.

Each sculpture is comprised of a shape or element bearing a human expression with hyperreal legs highly reminiscent of The Wizard of Oz. Similarly, Korina's influences from fairytales and folklore are evident, although they are subverted and made increasingly sinister with the updated reference of the desolate post-internet world. There is also a strong criticism on mankind's attitudes to nature, as we can infer from the stripped trees heavily present in the space and the various sculptures. 'The Tear Drop', for instance, lies with the back of its head resting on the ground and a cigarette in its mouth, almost the ultimate sign of submission and despair, on a micro level. Although the exhibition feels like a fantastical, dystopian bubble, there are constant reminders of the deeply problematic reality of our contemporary world. The cigarette in the mouth of 'The Tear Drop' is a small reflection of the various toxic elements of the human condition, whether it is addiction in its various forms, our lifestyles creating catastrophic climate change, or precarious working conditions, to name a few.

Installation view: Irina Korina, The Tear Drop, 2016. Upholstery foam, wire frame, spray contact adhesive, glue, mixed fabrics, dimensions variable. GRAD, London. 

Another of Korina's sculptures is 'The Heart', which is being widely used on the show's promotional material. Its wide-eyed, cartoonish expression, alongside the exhibition's title, makes the viewer wonder what happiness means to the artist, or more importantly what it should mean in this microcosm at GRAD. The addictions 'The Tear Drop' contends with do not convey pleasure of any kind, likewise with the naive smile on the face of 'The Heart'. We are left with the feeling that the technological age gives the facade of its people having a vast expanse of knowledge, when in fact much of this information is not legitimate or, indeed, useful; the 'post-truth' world is certainly hinted at, without explicit references. Equally, Korina's alternative entrance into the gallery via the fire exit suggests that the artist is transporting us to an alternate universe, yet along with Sergey Kasich's complementing soundtrack which is filled with typing and clicking sounds and techno scores, we are constantly reminded that this monochromatic world is very real today. 

Installation view: Irina Korina, Destined to be Happy, 2016. GRAD, London. 

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