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Claustrophobia

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review

At the Ikon Gallery, Brindleyplace, Birmingham until 2 August

For the Ikon's second show in its new premises, the red-brick Victorian school converted by Levitt Bernstein (aj 30.4.98), 16 artists explore the idea of 'home', writes Andrew Mead. Though a few inclusions are familiar (two pieces by Rachel Whiteread, for instance), curator Claire Doherty has preferred artists who have not shown widely in the uk and some works have been specially commissioned.

As the title 'Claustrophobia' implies, the exhibitors tend not to think of home as benign. Melanie Friend's photographs of interiors and gardens look innocent enough but an accompanying soundtrack says otherwise: the images are of Kosovo, and the voices tell of houses broken into, of violence and fear. Mona Hatoum's 'Welcome' mat is made of upturned steel pins; Perminda Kaur's bed, odd in its dimensions, seems drastically confined in a wooden cell; and the swing that, like a pendulum, goes back and forth in Nina Saunders' installation, has cut deeply into a living-room wall - there, claustrophobia is potent.

In a lighter vein, Mark Bennett has drawn detailed plans of homes in television series: Home of Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson, Gotham City, for instance, and Home of Herman and Lily Munster (this latter with 'dusty couch', 'heavy brocade curtains', 'banging shutter' and 'overgrown foliage' all indicated). Matthias Muller also looks to popular culture: his six- minute video, with suitably alarming music, features Hollywood heroines of the 1940s and 50s 'home alone'. They rise startled from sleep, peer anxiously through windows, turn quickly to close a door; each action is reprised by a succession of stars.

As for interior design, there are polar tendencies. Howard Arkley supplies dayglo decorative overload in his scenes from the Australian suburbs; Uta Barth makes home into cool near-abstractions that could be anywhere.

In the second-floor resource/ information room are books which suggest the show's ambition: not just, inevitably, Bachelard's The Poetics of Space but Anthony Vidler's The Architectural Uncanny, Adrian Forty's Objects of Desire and Brenda Vale's Prefabs. Effectively, quite sparely installed at the Ikon, the exhibition will tour to Middlesborough, Sheffield, Dundee, Bradford and Aberystwyth and conclude in Cardiff late in 1999.

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