In the City of London’s beating heart, a room in a former office building on Holborn Viaduct becomes the previously Mayfair-based commercial gallery space Project Native Informant’s new home. Current Affairs, Georgie Nettell’s third exhibition at the gallery, which ran from September 29 to October 29, displayed a series of foam-mounted and framed photographs. The images referred to recent moments in the English capital; topical subjects that ranged from post-Brexit politics to the tales of London’s gentrifying business-folk. They were social-networked in-jokes to some, seemingly neutralised cosmopolitan images to others. The exclusivity of the (assumed) specific gallery community that Nettell’s work is displayed to is codified into the compositions subjects, as a sub-community with a stake in the mechanism of the creative gentrifiers, establishments and political affairs referenced.
The works, as described in the press release, were photographs shot ‘phone-to-screen.’ A row of well-kept London terraces is the home of new UK Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, a key figure behind the recent Brexit campaign for Britain to leave the European Union. An interior from Brick Lane’s Cereal Killer Cafe, selling imported cereals with a price tag of £3.50 a bowl, was subject to attacks by anti-gentrification protesters and interrogating reporters on live TV. Current Affairs trips itself out as a quasi-urban-renewal Community Centre for the creative industry worker who priced themselves out of an area.
The gallery itself feels aesthetically rough around the edges, like an artist-led project space or live/work studio. The interior and images infect one another’s registers against a view of the city from the gallery’s third floor windows. IKEA desks and a bookshelf are used to delineate gallery from office. The room is lit with fluorescent tubes in recessed ceiling tiles that may have been upgraded daylight bulbs. The interior feels fashionable in its arbitrary features. As a cafe-bar might leave a section of unpainted drywall or exposed brick, the ex-city-centre office bares an environment fitting for Nettell’s show and her subjects. The Current Affairs press release refers to the function of these images as logos for a creative-cultural demographic and the ethical issues around them. Eating a gourmet burger at a chain that conspires with the police to trick and arrest suspected undocumented workers, and smashing up a Foxtons estate agents are both experiences rife with questions of privilege, access and community. These images, in their simplification as signs, critique the viewer demographic and their brand of judgement but do so from within the safe space of a young, successful, commercial gallery where these critiques are the artist’s content and commodity.