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Centre for Contemporary Arts Glasgow, 2022

Andy Grace Hayes

The air in the exhibition is dark, filled with innumerable voices and lit with moving images. Alexander Hetherington and Scott Caruth share the first space (CCA III); Hetherington’s two CRT monitors on the floor and Caruth’s photographic prints on the wall. There’s a triptych of blue bathroom doors, their surfaces scarred and inked with men’s phone numbers. The prints are illuminated from below with outtakes from a video practice. The first space may as well be a lobby; a DHL employee is looking for the reception. The two remaining rooms are two seemingly separate exhibitions shown under one name, Seen and Not Seen.

Hetherington occupies the largest space (CCA II) with two projections, another monitor and two coloured Carnegie Hall spotlights. His videos, four of which are projected, are shot on 16mm film and feature queer, poetic, trans-fronted ecological images. Idle Work (2021-2022) plays. Trapped in the liminal space between understanding and huh?, the videos are a layered exposure of references. There’s a feather, a wasp, a hexagonal structure, a globe, droning, piano strings and a wet voice. All overexposed. The work gives everything at once. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Yet, I couldn’t lose myself in the daydream of Hetherington’s work. The sound from one projection migrates into the other and, in the final room (CCA I), Scott Caruth’s AAAAAs bleed from behind a black curtain.

Hetherington’s many layered sounds and unruly references rub up against something far more succinct: Caruth’s video, BOB (2016-2020). Projected on a freestanding wall, the video is of blended multi-chromatic light interrupted only by the flash of leader markings on 16mm film. Red, blue, green, blue. Red light under blood vessels. Blue light under the jacuzzi. I was entranced by the film. Composed without a camera, 88 Caruth exposed the reel to the light, steam, hot and sweat of Pipeworks – Glasgow’s gay sauna. The dominant sound throughout it, the AAAAAs, is a recording of the artist in conversation with Bob, a blind gay man he worked with over several years. Bob asks the men he meets to perform the sound. The quality of the pleasure it brings him is left uncertain, the tone is both camp and erotic. Caruth carries the note, with Bob’s counsel, and it vibrates like Meryl Streep’s ‘Flaaaaacid!’ in Death Becomes Her (1992). Or like finding a free cabin and jeans around your ankles at the sauna. Unseen pleasures float through this invisible bathhouse; be those Bob’s, the artist’s or the Pipework’s clients’.

The exhibition text supposes Hetherington and Caruth are each other’s double. The artists’ formal and conceptual similarities – 16mm film and queer subjects – ground the press release. Yet, if measured, the space between the artists’ work is vast. The tension between the respective amorphousness and conciseness in their works feels competitive; or at the very least primed for comparison. The exhibition has a degree-show quality. The bleeding sound is not ‘two works in conversation’, but careless curation. The marrying of sounds from disparate artworks, in their manners of expression, forces a combative reading that is undeserving of either.

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