Review: Ordinary Madness @ Gazelli Art House


Charlotte Colbert’s Ordinary Madness readily confronts our relationship with instant communication through a series of stripped, digital images. Twenty-two abstract photographs are exhibited across two floors at Gazelli Art House offering the viewer a glimpse into the conflicting online worlds of freedom, privacy and emotion.

Can an emoji accurately define a feeling? Or does it become lost in translation? Colbert’s art features exposed female figures with emoticons concealing their faces, suggesting the desensitisation of our emotions when we eagerly translate them into data for the sake of instant messaging.

Colbert explains: “There’s something wonderful about technology but something very dark. We’re coming back to a symbolic way of writing but it’s someone else’s interpretation.”

Take Psychosis 4 for example – a female form sitting on a toilet with a dizzy face emoji, (if you don’t know what a dizzy face emoji looks like click here.) An unbroken binary code runs down the image making a pastiche of 21st century life and the attachment we have mediated with technology. Ultimately our phone is an extension of our hand.

Many of the photographs are set against an unembellished backdrop heightening human alienation from the real world. Family 1 makes a spectacle of the nuclear family – peeling brick walls, a TV set on standby and a family sitting on chairs watching nothing. Colbert captures a digital dystopia. The interesting and intentional element of her photographs is, while emojis exist to show feeling the lack of authenticity forms a cold and insensitive parallel.

Shot in black and white medium format film, Colbert uses double exposures to layer photos with images of artificial intelligence, binary codes, and circuit boards. Interestingly the series was shot in a now abandoned, former lesbian commune in east London. The juxtaposition of electronic waste and the human form is a brilliant symbol of the destructive bond between the real and the imitation.

Colbert poses the question: what trace will the digital age leave behind? Perhaps it’s too early to tell, but in a culture where, on average, we spend 25 hours a week online it seems our legacy will be defined by how we choose to exist in the cyber age.

Charlotte Colbert is a champion for the surreal and a cultured visual storyteller. Ordinary Madness openly considers the philosophical weight of natural and unnatural forms of communication. However it would be interesting to see Colbert explore this concept beyond four walls. It’s not an extensive series of photographs but Ordinary Madness concisely gets the point across.

We gave it 4 / 5 mangos.

Ordinary Madness is showing at Gazelli Art House until August 13, 2016.

For more details about the gallery see below:

Gazelli Art House
39 Dover Street
Telephone: 020 7491 8816

Gallery Opening Times: Mon-Fri, 10am – 6pm, Saturday, 11am – 7pm

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