Sam Austen, Alex Rathbone

Why are there no good photographs of UFOs? Or the Loch Ness monster? Or even Big Foot? There exists no-where a crystal clear capturing of anyone of these mysterious occurances – instead we have to put up with out of focus, damaged or obscured documentation. Is it just bad luck that throughout the last century everyone who has encountered anyone of these has also happened to be a technically inept photographer/cinematographer? Or is the explanation far less of a strange coincidence? Could it actually be that sightings of such things are in fact hoaxes and that a competent visual record of each one would reveal them for what they actually are. The grandeur of an invading fleet of UFO’s is in fact nothing more than a bunch of frisbees covered in tin-foil. Feral and strange Yeti-like creatures are reduced to teenagers in ape costumes.

The casual, and the wobbly have basically been the main weapon in the arsenal of the Hoaxer. With no means of fabricating a convincing animatronic Loch-Ness Monster, the seams and inconsistencies in the model one is able to build can be ‘glossed’ over with a suitably ‘un-glossy’ photograph. But ultimately the myth rests with the audience of the documentation being ‘un-sure’ about what it is they are looking at. It is detail which leads to certainty, so it is details which are lost in the blurs, bad lighting and camera-shake of Hoaxers. This Display from artists Sam Austen and Alexander Rathbone makes me think of the logic that UFO Hoaxers must conduct their endeavours with.

The main focus of the exhibition is a film. In the film there are two objects. The making of these objects was clearly limited. Limited to a scraping together of ‘present-at-the-time’ materials. Real last wood in the shed sculptures. Yet they are cast in the film as mysterious objects with power which extends far beyond the garden shed or garage. Again I cant be sure what exactly it is these objects are doing because like when hoaxing a sighting of a mystical being, it is the clear-cut details which are softened. One of the objects seems to be mobile, appearing in different locations of the car park the film is set in. One seems to piss over itself. Sometimes one is silhouetted across the london skyline – magnifying its grandeur. Sometimes the other is giving off smoke and fumes – it seems agitated like it may explode.

In the film Austen and Rathbone employ double exposures, interference and low-light levels like master-hoaxers. These are the formal devices from which the objects gain their mystical power. When we look at an out-of-focus Loch Ness Monster we dont realise its monster-ness is primarily being up-held by the poor-focus of its documentation. The blurred edges might take away detail and clarity but it more importantly wards off refutations, allowing us to believe in and keep the monster-myth alive. The sculptures themselves are also on display here. Perhaps some people will only have time for them after seeing the film. Perhaps some people will already be in awe of their mystery and the film will further encourage their desire to view them as strange objects from another world . It is ultimately an art about what makes us and how we invest in objects. Be they incidental or theatrical, crafted or found, hailed as sacred or ignored as worthless, when looking at Alex and Sam’s work I cant help but think of Iggy Pop saying , ‘What sounds to you like a big load of trashy old noise – is in fact the brilliant work of a genius…… myself’

-Peter Simpson


Alex Rathbone & Sam Austen , A Mouth to suck your sap, 2009 film still

Alex Rathbone & Sam Austen

A Mouth to suck your sap, 2009
film still