‘London Dust’ Review

To view ‘London Dust’ by German born Rut Blees Luxemburg was an ambition of mine since I had come across the online article a month prior to visiting. The article that boasts “Blees Luxemburg’s images contrast the idealised, architectural computer-generated visions of London that clad City building sites, with the gritty, unpolished reality” But not having read this beforehand, my expectations where that it would be a moderately sized display on the contestant construction of London that is controversially reducing the green belt and supposedly worsening global warming. Therefore I expected its audience to be Londoners themselves or environmentalists who are interested in this theme.

Once I finally found the exhibition I was disappointed to say the least. The exhibition was not moderately sized at all and was literally the “small photography and film exhibition” that it was stated as being. Two opposite walls were used to present the exhibition with artist statements and statistics, another wall display three framed images with one being large than the one before. Another wall presented a large video screen that projected a film of the nighttime streets on London with some strange accompanying German music that occasionally bursted loudly out of the speakers, making me jump every time and not in a good way. There was an additional framed picture horizontally from it, slightly hidden and in no way printed big enough to make a significant impact let alone even be noticed. The placement of this exhibition was disappointing; it had more of a dark backroom feel to it then a front room stand out effect. This is due to Luxemburg’s work being showcased in a quite frankly undesirable area of the gallery, which was opposite a café and between two separate exhibitions. This creates confusion for the viewer, who might interpret it as being part of the ‘History of London’ exhibit next door. Although the themes are similar, I feel if you’re trying to showcase a solo exhibition then it should be fully independent from surrounding similar works. Whether this set up is intentional by the Photographer I am unsure, but the positioning is certainly arguable.

The work itself was not what I was expecting, I felt I was at first disillusioned by the initial viewing of the cityscapes online into thinking that the sky-high buildings were a part of her photography; when in fact it was just a paper backdrop to her actual photograph “At first glance, the photographs are a bit disconcerting. It seems you are looking at a view of London but, sooner or later, something strikes you as odd. The viewpoint is wrong, the skyline makes no sense, and – surely, that building doesn’t exist”. I found the purpose of the exhibition to be confusing and resorted to the museums online blog for a simple explanation “What her photographs show is the computer generated imagery (CGI) used to clad a building site fence. What appear, in Rut’s photographs, to be magnificent vistas are actually CGIs made by property developers to advertise their new buildings.” The exhibition is interpreted as being a bit of trickery, leading people to believe initially that the skyscraper images are her own when in fact she is documenting their use and how they deteriorate physically over time, with the foreground of her images being the current decline of London. There are too many aspects that are not needed such as the idea of trickery, CGI, gathering of dust, statistics about the financial crisis and how it’s led to building skyscrapers. Factor in a random video with ill-matched music and it just doesn’t make sense. Luxemburg could have so easily made this a beautifully simple exhibition that offers a less idyllic view of London, creating questions on improvability. It is perfectly possible for her to review ‘London Dust’ and turn it into something new, something more straightforward with more images and less context. However, on a more positive note I do feel that there were some strengths to the photographers images, one in particular entitled ‘Gold Sack’ showed a sack of sand on the street that was split open, the sand glowing gold from the street lights at night. I felt this image was particularly strong as it held an interpretive and almost poetic meaning on the money behind the creation and upkeep of London, this image could be a good starting point to expand the work to create a more easily interpreted display.

Despite my misgivings, others clearly enjoyed the exhibition. A French website, ‘Dominique Fiat’ described Luxemburgs work more positively “She creates immersive and vertiginous compositions that challenge established urban perceptions and brings to light the overlooked, the dismissed and the unforeseen.” I think this is a fair and persuasive position, it did make me think about whether I have over-judged her work; perhaps her work is meant to be taken less seriously. But ultimately I just can’t shake the feeling of being misled and the disappointment of the initially viewing of ‘London Dust’.

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This exhibition had so much potential and yet it didn’t reach the heights it could have, it felt as if a crucial mark was missing and it could be argued that everything I have pointed out was Luxemburg’s intention. Nevertheless, I still feel this display should be altered for improvement or I am saddened to say that perhaps we should leave ‘London Dust’ to gather a dust of it’s own.

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