What’s the alternative of ASMR? The antidote to lulling, whispering consolation? There is probably not a chic time period for the jangling, queasy, uncanny chills induced by sure combos of supplies and textures, however by God does Polly Morgan perceive the territory. Her exhibition Easy methods to Behave at House is gloriously discomfiting: a multi-hazard zone of phobias and sensitivities.
Nests of snakes, acrylic nails, polystyrene, damp concrete, uncooked flesh, tiny prickles, dripping gunk: that is the sculptor and taxidermist’s goosebump-inducing arsenal. It’s a small present, however every work is exactly crafted for unheimlich affect.
In Unite in a Widespread Aim, an prolonged yellow-scaled snake physique squirms into the hole area of a polystyrene slab that after cradled some costly piece of digital package. A seething tangle of gray and white scaly bellies bulges by a gap on the centre of a sandy concrete sq. in Perceive Your Viewers, as if the proverbial nest of vipers has burst by the wall of a home. A block the dimensions of a small microwave oven is neatly bisected, with a cameraphone perched on prime shining its torch into the hole to disclose extra serpentine tangles in Display screen Folks.
Morgan does work with actual snakes however these three are modelled, painted and embellished with supplies utilized by nail artists: luscious, shimmery, creepy as hell. They appear to be barely contained anxiousness, that roiling intestinal sensation of the world tipping on its axis.
These and the opposite latest snake works – Hint Your Route and Take into account the Threat – carry titles apparently lifted from how-to influencer listicles. As a result of little doubt there’s a connection between the snakepit of concern knotting your entrails, and the contortions demanded of us to slot in, to broadcast the proper opinions, the suitable life-style, the appropriate steadiness of perfection and humility.
Buzzwords additionally infect three small wall-mounted works – two made with roadkill hedgehogs. Right here the stress arises much less from the trouble to cram an unruly physique right into a confining area, than the grotesque interaction of supplies. In Produce Invaluable Content material, Mrs Tiggywinkle’s mortal stays seem suspended inside a splurt of custardy blue plastic above a uncooked slab of chipboard and blue-flecked foam composite. If the hedgehog epitomises the cute homely romanticism of the British countryside, then this seems like an undignified repurposing (though arguably a greater exit than being pecked out of fissures by crows on the M6).
What’s pure, what synthetic, and what belongs the place? Snakeskin has lengthy been prized for style equipment. Hedgehog pores and skin much less so. Serpents of the fats, jewel-toned sorts favoured by Morgan are unique: there’s much less taboo about carrying their skins than there’s a cutesy native (or, God forbid, home) animal species. Each hedgehog and snake are imperilled by the incursion of human know-how into their habitat. City life entails operating battles to maintain the wild at bay, be it cat fleas, fabric moths, Japanese knotweed, rats, mosquitos or daring foxes.
Fashionable ecophilosophy argues that we will’t make a real distinction between nature and human society: we’re all interdependent. The ultra-illusion of manipulated picture, of on-line personas, squeezed, perfected, and filtered – the “me” of social media – floats past all of it in a fictional zone, as implausible, on reflection, as a hedgehog washerwoman carrying a bonnet.
House, right here, turns into a website of assault. There’s strain from inside to behave with civilised decorum and to struggle urges that may upset the steadiness of a small social group. There’s strain from with out to evolve to the requirements set inside the shared fictional area we now have constructed for ourselves on-line, and to which a lot interplay has been confined over the past six months.
Morgan’s coup de grâce is a sequence of “in course of” images, for which the artist’s arms are dressed with the form of impractical acrylic nail artwork often reserved for influencers brandishing a brand new purse or bowl of chia pudding. The artist, as an alternative, is peeling the pores and skin off snake carcasses. The luxe femininity of the elongated nails and all that agency stiff flesh grasped within the palm carries inescapable erotic frisson, but additionally, by extension, the suggestion that Morgan is de-gloving a human penis.
Easy methods to behave at dwelling? Actually, it’s like Halloween got here early.
• Polly Morgan: Easy methods to Behave at House is on the Bomb Manufacturing unit, London till 2 November.