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Eddie Peake

Eddie Peake, A Dream Of A Real Memory

1-30 November, CIRCA 2020

‘A Dream Of A Real Memory’ by Eddie Peake is a devised drama featuring three characters set within a green screen cyclorama. Primarily, abstract movement and dance are employed as metaphoric means to engage ideas of tension and power dynamics implicit in relationships between people, or in individuals’ internal pursuit of their own self-identity. The footage of the sixty-two-minute video work, screened in daily two-minute episodes over 31 days, is reversed, beginning at “the end” of the performance, showing the performers’ tired bodies and messy makeup, and ending at “the beginning” of the performance. The backwards motion of the work is analogous with the distorted and fantastical-seeming realm of both dreams and memories, which though connected to reality can also warp and misrepresent it. Also, by revealing the filmmaker himself, the fracturing of the fourth wall emphasises the deceptive boundaries which dreams, memories, and reality possess.

The work employs the specific characteristics of the Piccadilly screen to create a narrative work that also criticises (laterally, not explicitly) the manipulative means by which capitalist machinery such as advertising entwines itself within our lives, deliberately playing on our desires, our anxieties and so on. I like that this is a work about relationships (in the broadest possible sense of the word) and the looping thought patterns of an obsessive, depressive or psychotic mind, placed within that context.

Eddie Peake’s (born 1981) work encompasses performance, video, photography, painting, sculpture and installation. Peake’s main focus lies in the lapses and voids inherent in the process of translating between verbal language and nonverbal modes of communication. It is in the discrepancy between words and any other language, say, images, emotions, bodily movements or sounds, that his art is located. Peake’s work is an often-energetic spectacle in which the absurd and the erotic each find a place, and in which the artist plays a central role.

While studying at the Royal Academy, Peake staged a naked five-a-side football match in Burlington Gardens where the two teams were differentiated only by their socks and trainers. As the work’s title suggests, Touch (2012) addressed the inherent tactility and homoerotic exhibitionism that comes with contact sports. For Peake, the work was “a joyous event”, but one that quickly became commonplace as the audience were habituated to the nudity of the players.

Peake went on to develop his choreographed performances in which body, sound and gesture were employed to dramatic effect in the work titled Amidst A Sea Of Flailing High Heels And Cooking Utensils (2012), a performance devised in two parts for the Tanks at Tate Modern and for the Chisenhale Gallery, London. Pursuing his exploration of the body’s potential as a sculptural and an erotic object, Peake asks the viewer to examine their own responses to the piece; how the language of music and movement are affecting their perception of what is taking place, and how they are implicated as voyeurs of this erotic spectacle.

In DEM at Cell Project Space and Infinite Disparity, the ongoing performance within his inaugural exhibition at White Cube Bermondsey, Peake investigated the possibilities of performance within an exhibition structure. In DEM, audiences encountered an invigilator wearing a tiger’s costume, while at White Cube a male roller-skater wearing a sheer knitted jumpsuit glided languidly around the installation and viewers, pausing to commune with the other works. At White Cube, Peake experimented for the first time with devising a performance through public rehearsals in the gallery space over the duration of the show, explaining: “I want to focus on the process of devising a dramatic performance work, and the constant and jolting shift between reality and drama implicit in trying to do that in the context of an art gallery.”

In Peake’s acid-coloured spray paintings, sharp-lettered slogans created with masking tape emerge through layers of spray paint to reveal the work’s polished steel ground, mirroring the viewer. The words and images shaped from negative space are a metaphor for gaps in language – and it is in this space that the viewer finds themselves. This fascination with the ‘in-between’ or gaps in language comprehension is as much an important aspect of Peake’s practice as is body politics. The themes meet in his series of poster and panel compositions, which contrast black and white photographs of nude figures with vibrant panels spelling out tag lines that teasingly enhance the work’s erotic subject matter. The intimation of tactility is also visible in Peake’s Handschmeichler, (or ‘pleasing to the hand’) sculptures, combining highly polished and hand-crafted amorphous plaster blobs with concrete architectonic structures; biomorphic forms caressed by the surface of a hard edged abstract monolith.

By playing with the ambiguities of sexuality and gender categorisation, Peake’s work conveys the fluid boundaries of identity. The artist expanded this investigation via the introduction of a new persona – a powerful faun as seen in his neon sculpture The Baddest Badman (2013) – an alter-ego who will recur and evolve throughout his work.