Tension is a central currency in the work of Rachel Reupke. There is a long-running fascination, morbid at times, with the aesthetic and political stakes of minor affects – with frustration, annoyance and paralysis. Lean in is the first retrospective of Reupke’s work, spanning a period between 2006 until the present. Formulated in two parts, the exhibition focuses on Reupke’s practice in the form of a survey of key works, alongside a temporary cinema. The latter with a curated programme featuring Loretta Fahrenholz, Peter Roehr, and Owen Land amongst others, speaking of the work and its methods through the medium of film itself.
A point of focus for Lean in is a particular space of the ready-made and sanitised world of stock images, advertisement and outtakes. The feelings at work tend to be non-cathartic affects, emotional states linked with the suspension or blockage of action. Formalism holds an important place, as do the things that seep, spill or otherwise get away from it as excess. The most recent work of the exhibition is Letter of Complaint (2015) – a highly-stylised and temporally ambiguous period drama drawing on banal and desperate letters of complaint. The film, which formally and conceptually takes on the form and spirit of the template-based and bureaucratic expression of discontent, is one that teeters on the edge of things – of sublimation, of exhaustion and importantly, of exuberance.
The state of something being ‘off,’ subtly but to the core, is one that recurs in Wine & Spirits (2013) and 10 Seconds or Greater (2009) – works that use the house-language of stock images and its register of visual and emotive cues. Stock footage is often used to sell products that have no material substance: health insurance, pensions, mortgages – there is a huge array of staged scenarios of people being ill, witnessing traffic accidents, attending funerals and worrying about bills. Delicately edited together, what emerges in these works is something like an anti-narrative, in every respect. They are intensely expressive works, against the systematic representations that they channel; the circulated and exchangeable images that do not represent us. They are expressive by virtue of the extent to which all expression has been thoroughly removed and dumped outside the frame.
The temporary cinema is a site to further explore another facet of Reupke’s work – her early landscape suites, where a Caspar David Friedrich-like sense of composition joins a lingering feel that the humans have left. Here lack is stated more directly through the non-present human figure, adding a post-apocalyptic undertone to the views of creeks, fields and mountains. It is an absence that grows louder as the soundtrack from Reupke’s Containing Matters of no very peaceable Colour (2009) continues in the background: “behaviour, emotional stress… lifestyles, blonde hair…”
Rachel Reupke is a London-based artist and filmmaker. Recent solo exhibitions include Cubitt Gallery, London and Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle (both 2015) and Cell Project Space, London (2014). Her work has recently been shown at Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, China; Museum of Modern Art, Vienna, Austria; Wattis Institute, San Francisco, USA; Tate Britain, London; and the Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw. She was short-listed for the 2014 Jarman Award.