Leo Gabin (Lieven Deconinck, Gaëtan Begerem and Robin De Vooght) are a collective from Belgium who play with mixed-media and the burgeoning over-exposure of user-generated videos and images that flood and predominate our culture - specifically that of our youth.
In New Holland’s gallery the artists have installed a particularly authentic replica of a 14-year-old teenage girl’s room. All the signifiers of an adolescent girl are there; the half-naked shiny boy band pin-ups, the copious useless nick-knacks from small badges to old phones and stale scent bottles. The only thing missing perhaps is a half-empty packet of cigarettes, but this girl seems more into pink and kittens than smoking. The whole place reeks of puberty, there is even long strands of hair trapped in the hair brushes dotted around the room. Some visitors even apologise and walk out when finding another caller lounging on the bed- believing the room to be theirs!
An old TV provides further ambience to the space- videos expounded from YouTube clips of teenage girls that the group have montaged and put to a looped soundtrack. These young girls are either dancing provocatively in minimal clothing and miming along to pop songs, or doing something as mundane as cleaning their rooms. The barrier between private and public space is exacerbated as we are allowed and encouraged to snoop into her life, sit on her bed, peer at her photos, rifle through her underwear drawer. This accessibility is reflective of society’s endlessly prying eye, the endless intrusion into public space and thirst to know about strangers’ lives. Although the specifics of the room are fake – the girl is notfictional- the artists have tried to replicate a specific girl’s room from one of the video’s shown, having drawn evidence from her blog and following some of her activities to create maximum effectiveness. Knowing that this is an artistic interpretation of her room makes the activity of looking less invasive despite the realistic simulacrum of the space. Via the TV screen we are party to these girls films, yet we are not voyeurs, despite feeling uncomfortable at how seemingly private the spaces projected are- for all the footage is self-filmed –the girls themselves want to be perceived how they appear by the world wide mass online. This imagery is alarming in its intimacy but their effect is muted by the all-encompassing installation; we have seemingly been invited into her bedroom, and thus the TV’s videos are legitimised as something we may encounter whilst in this space. Whilst inside the room we forget this is an exhibition, only reminded this is so when we leave through the remainder of the gallery’s white space forced us to analyse the artists’ intentions. Leo Gabin thus cleverly exploit our curiosity in such a space to make us conscious of how we too are implicit in the continual dissemination of such imagery- since the interest in such young wannabe internet stars is evidently still present.