Rebecca Lennon has a twisted mind. This young and imaginative graduate of the Slade enjoys playing with familiar objects and setting them in an alien context to say something about the world we live in. She coined this exhibition's title, Fresh Trauma. "It's freshness gone wrong," she says. Her eponymous video shows an art technician wrapping a tree in plastic. Things wrapped in plastic evoke new commodities, so the tree is being given a commercial value. But the tree is being protected from nature which has no commercial aspiration. It's a traumatised freshness, choreographed and accentuated by different film soundtracks that, like incidental music, alter the perceptions of the scene. It's an hysterical freshness just as her Dark Matter, three headless classical statues sitting on vibrators, exude an hysterical energy symptomatic of the hysterical headlessness of our times.
Lennon is one of eight artists represented here. American, Shana Moulton is featured, via her alter-ego called Cynthia, in a quirky nine-minute video in which she applies make-up remover to her face with pads that mysteriously float into her hands. Instead she finds that it's her face that is removed leaving what looks like plasticine in its place (above). Finally, the whole face disappears leaving only two green, blinking eyes. It's a search for meaning in the midst of consumerism, skilfully effected in high-definition pastels with whispering soundtrack.
A Slade contemporary of Rebecca Lennon's is Benedict Drew among whose exhibits is "Apopleptic" (below), which tries to create an internet website in analogue form. It consists of various raw depictions, among them a sort of 3-D Princess Di. It harbours stained and rotting shopping bags, obsolescent audio tape and a couple of amorphous blobs, one of which appears to be oppressively pulsating via a projector. "The digital human is the clean human," he says. This is the antithesis, the dirty, messy human, represented with all its faults and shortcomings that in the computer world might generate one of those unintelligible error messages.
Gabriele Beveridge, who also attended the Slade with Lennon, has an installation in which the faded coiffured image of a model appears behind a grimy, skewed Venetian blind above a broken wineglass. It's redolent of a sleazy hotel. The poster is partially buried in sand, dead grass is appearing above it. There's a pull between encroaching nature and the fixed beauty of the poster. The work is multi-layered and is by far the subtlest on display.
Opposite is an exhibit by French artist Chooc Ly Tan. Underlying her work is the constant need to see beyond the physical restraints that govern our lives. In "Not Such a Hasty Hush Boom", she creates a physical tension through projecting footage of a volcanic eruption on to the metal casing of a bread bin that is suspended by a magnet attached to a boom microphone stand. Once again, it plays with displacement and contradictions and hints at life's fragility.
The same goes for Heather Phillipson's video installation "A is to D What E is to H. Confused? Certainly. Culinary metaphors, sensory displacement and confusion of desire are at the heart of it. And you can lay back and enjoy the confusion on the wooden lounger accompanying it.
Angus Fairhurst, one of the 1980s Young British Artists was well known for his practical jokes including the time he rang various contemporary art dealers and connected them with each other as a comment on the art world often just interested in talking to itself. He is represented in Fresh Trauma by his video, "Cheap and Ill-Fitting Gorilla Suit" from which a naked man extricates himself in a comical way, emphasising his vulnerability. Fairhurst has been a big influence on young contemporary artists, making his suicide in 2008 all the more tragic.
There's a comic darkness about the selection of Edwin Burdis's drawings on show even though they consist of garish colours. They resemble cartoon depictions of dehumanised body parts.
Fresh Trauma is non-thematic, confusing, challenging and utterly absorbing. It runs at the Ceri Hand Gallery, Copperfield Street, London SE1 0EP until 29 June 2013.Suggest a correction