A4 paper, photocopiers, electric sanders, desk fans, ladders, light shades, lamps, chairs, cardboard boxes, bulldog clips; John Wood and Paul Harrison use the props of everyday life in the creation of minimal, enigmatic tableaux. However, more recently, a mountain, a seaside pier and the moon have appeared in their studio. Things That Happen, their first solo exhibition in London since 2005, comprises both new commissions and recent works; videos, drawings, sculptures and text pieces that reveal the artists' characteristic subtle wit and intelligence.
In their latest works, Wood and Harrison demonstrate their need to test a broader sphere with new locations. Bored Astronauts on the Moon (2011) sees the pair wandering aimlessly about on the surface of the moon, and in Unrealistic Mountaineers (2012) they appear at a loss on a craggy snow-capped summit. Referencing precedents such as 19th century romantic landscape painting, as well as more recent artistic endeavours in the natural environment, these works playfully critique our ambitions to take on the world and the spaces beyond. By re-enacting scenarios that were once accompanied by a grand, world dominating narrative (the first moon-landing, or the conquest of Everest) and using model-making and make-believe to spin the yarn, these short video works quietly subvert the epic tale.
In immaculately constructed videos - always created in the confines of their studio - the artists' map out precise physical and psychological environments - casting themselves as the principal protagonists, or aids in a plot. Objects like sheets of paper or domestic appliances, are subjected to actions that reveal some alternative, latent use. In One More Kilometre (2009) an electric sander is used to whittle away a stack of A4 sheets (which end to end, would measure one kilometre) and in 500 Thoughts (2010), as ideas are tested and dismissed, a pile of paper is incrementally and invisibly reduced to nothing.
Other works in the show connect carefully orchestrated individual scenes to form complex sequential narratives. Night and Day (2008) reveals - between flashes of light and dark - a series of discreet views of a 'room' (the studio, a basement, a cupboard) in which both the artists and their attendant objects experiment with position, movement and shadow. In 10 x 10 (2011), a camera appears to track downward through a building passing room after room, floor after floor, to witness the unseen, and sometimes unseemly activities and ephemera of office life - Spiderman hoovering, a skewed pile of office chairs, a man riding a bicycle, a huge heap of shredded paper, a man lying on top of a filing cabinet, a scattering of illuminated fluorescent tubes...
Things That Happen is accompanied by a new publication with a specially commissioned essay by Ian Bourn and a new DVD, Nothing Special , featuring selected works from 1993-2011 which has been co-produced with LUX Artists' Moving Image.
Interview with John Wood and Paul Harrison on Dazed Digital