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Review of Christina Mackie: How to Begin, by Lupe Nunez-Fernandez


i-cabin is a relatively young artists-run gallery off Holloway Road that's been putting on shows for about a year. Presumably operating with a very small budget but working with top-notch collaborators, its two artist directors, Juliette Blightman and Sebastian Craig, manage the gallery as if it were a collective art project, co-conceiving the shows with all guest artists and combining the experimental with well-trained rigour. Artists they've worked with include Alec Steadman, Giovanni Manzini, Margarita Bofiliou, Cerith Wyn Evans and Hannah Watson. They have certainly made the most of their very limited premises - two small partially wood-paneled rooms that don't appear to have been given any kind of refurb, just a good scrub. In a former life they may have served as storage rooms; now they're reincarnated as rough and ready white cubes. Though somewhat claustrophobic upon first view, the small humble quarters really work to make the art transform the joint, making it all a larger and a truly enveloping experience.

Last Thursday's opening of new work by 2005 Becks Futures winner Christina Mackie is a case in point. In the first room she's created an impressive installation that incorporates two overlapping digital video projections of an industrial rooftop skyline full of antennae and mobile phone reception units with sculptures placed between the wall and the projectors' light, thereby creating shadows that cleverly blend into the scene and give a sense of three-dimensional depth and immersion to the whole affair. The sculptures are rough representations of one of the elements extracted from the video, those ominous mobile phone towers, which Mackie has playfully rendered out of plastic sticks and whatever else she found around her chest of pound shop treasures. There's an inverted dust broom sticking up from one of them, which on the projection become a palm tree, its fronds moving as some air comes into the room. The background sounds of motors and the distant buzz of machinery that flows uninterruptedly through the piece are punctuated by the occasional chirping bird that enters the frame and quickly flits away. Whether we like it or not, we're trapped in the web of artificial electromagnetic waves here created, surrounded by something we cannot even see. I checked my mobile phone for calls and felt caught, sure my thoughts would be surveilled if I remained in there any longer.

In the adjacent room Mackie continues the theme of architectural simulacra and freewheeling reconstruction, showing small colour snapshots of roadside huts and seaside gazebos next to stylized versions of the same made out of ordinary materials, a mélange of play-doh, plastic combs and other tchotchkes and paper, charmingly primitive architectural models reminiscent of archaic religious votives. There's a slightly creepy humanoid shape fashioned out of clay stretched out and garlanded by loose glass beads, next to photographs of the previous room's skyline printed on paper and directly tacked on the wall, furthering the shrine-like feel to the space. Looking through the works in the room once again, they felt like offerings; walking through the installation on my way out, the disturbing thought of unconsciously worshipping the multiple invisible presences infiltrating modern life was hard to ignore.
Lupe Nunez-Fernandez

Christina Mackie, 'How to begin', to 25 June i-cabin, Clarendon Buildings, 11 Ronalds Road, N5 1XJ Tube: Highbury/Islington, Archway