Benjamin Cohen: Two Point Eight Million | FOLD
This show is dominated by a mini mountain range of day-glo green “eco chips” - the kind of polystyrene-like packaging that pads out Amazon boxes - in the far corner of the gallery. The artist Benjamin Cohen called it all mouth and no trousers, and studded the green chip mountains with an amp and two transparent speakers emitting droning sounds.
It’s a riff on Félix González-Torres’s Portrait of Ross in LA, which was a pile of sweets stacked up in the corner of the gallery, weighing the same as the artist’s lover - before he was stricken with AIDS. A sense of diminishment is something Cohen’s aiming for, too: the eco chips are made up of 0.4% tangible materials and 99.6% air. In both cases, the mountain ranges are illusory, intangible.
I couldn’t help but make other connections with recent shows I’ve featured on here with another of Cohen’s works: Infinite Loaf. Made up of a loaf of bread the artist found in the street one day, it’s encased in resin to make it timeless; resin was used by Orlanda Broom in her current show at the gallery upstairs from FOLD.
Looking closely at the slightly misshapen loaf, through the shiny carapace I spotted tiny blue blooms of mould, frozen forever - never to grow and take over like they would in the normal course of things. Mouldy food gave similar artistic inspiration to Kathleen Ryan, whose fruit sculptures at Josh Lilley I enjoyed earlier in the summer.
The title of the show, by the way, is explained by The Magnificent Moulins (2022) – a video work showing four seconds of archival footage of 2.8 million gallons of water flowing over the crest of Niagara Falls, the water darkening as the video goes on, then snapping back as the next loop begins. Looked at again, that resin encased bread looks slightly drippy, at points where the resin’s gathered at the edges.
Cohen’s sculptural endeavours, then, resonated with me. Both for their sense of exploration and sad comedy - the latter sense reinforced when I learned that he originally tried to use an even more eco-friendly sugar-based alternative to the chips for this show - but had to rethink it when the gallery had a rat infestation. At least they couldn’t have got at the bread…
Benjamin Cohen: Two Point Eight Million is at FOLD (London). 20 July - 03 September 2022