Interstellar sexual adventures and underground erotica – glasgow international review art and design the guardian

Sam Keogh has just emerged from some sort of cryogenic pod, marooned on the floor of Glasgow’s Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA). Keogh, artist-cum-astronaut, has seen better days, and so have I. He tells a very long tale of space exploration, gallons of human sperm and frozen eggs, as his craft malfunctioned somewhere on its mission to seed distant planets with the human race. Part sculpture, part-performance, with yards of plastic, tons of goo and electrical dreck, Keogh’s Kapton Cadaverine has some good gags, but its vision of the grubbiness of interstellar space travel is a familiar trope, especially to anyone who knows how trashed an airplane cabin looks after a long-haul flight.

Richard Parry, formerly director of the Grundy Art Gallery in Blackpool, had less than a year to devise the programme. Cellular World: Cyborg-Human-Avatar-Horror, the group show he has devised in the difficult, overdecorated and pillared ground floor gallery at GoMA, plays on familiar tropes of failed dreams and dystopian futures. Jesse Darling’s washing line festoons the indoor sky with snarls of razor-wire, bunting, dishcloths, toys and babywear.

John Russell’s billboard-scaled digital image is a kind of modern baroque version of architectural trompe l’oeil painting, continuing the galleries’ succession of pillars within the image itself, and filling the illusory space with a huge elephant’s head. The eyeless tusker looks back at us bleakly, as well it might.

Over at Tramway, a deeply troubled figure is spotlit in a huge space. Enlarged from a small figurine in the Wellcome Collection, Mark Leckey’s Nobodaddy (titled after a poem by William Blake) is a seated god, full of wounds, holes and knobbly excrescences. His body hides speakers, and a voice fills the surrounding darkened space. A CGI apparition of the same figure hovers on a large screen across the gallery. We delve into his hollowed out innards. Leckey provides the voice of this abject figure, accompanied by horrible gurglings and rumblings and complaints. What a plight. Talk about the crisis of masculinity.

The real strength of the citywide, sprawling festival rests on a few works. A live voice accompanies Tai Shani’s Tramway installation Dark Continent: Semiramis. Topless women wearing Spanx figure-shaping pantyhose walk on stage and pose themselves in a tableaux vivant. It is difficult to keep up with the labyrinthine text, apparently an extrapolation from a 1405 proto-feminist text, Christine de Pizan’s The Book of the City of Ladies. The staging is weird, the set a sort of mix of Joan Miró and new age nonsense, including a giant outstretched hand, hanging things that glow like ceramic jewellery, coloured balls and small platonic solids littering the floor, an orange puddle. A pink worm-like gut writhes across the stage. A female voice declaims, alternately soothing and erupting with sex and violence, pleasure and pain. I thought of Angela Carter’s Sadeian Woman and Pasolini’s Salò. To see one performance in Shani’s 12-part cycle is not enough. I need the text. I feel the whole thing is being snatched away even as I look.