Review: Andy Holden at the Zabludowicz


What sort of art were you creating when you were 16? Bedford-born Andy Holden and pals invented a whole movement…



M!MS collections of charity shop fodder
M!MS collections of charity shop fodder

While most teenage boys lurk on street corners, wolf whistling at girls, smoking and necking whatever booze they can get their mitts on, Bedford artist Andy Holden and his pals (John Blamey, James Macdowell, Roger Illingworth and Johnny Parry) created an art movement.

Called M!MS (Maximum Irony, Maximum Sincerity), it stated that in order to make art, one must claim the position of both irony and sincerity in equal measure.

Cue school assembly-style songs, fridge letter magnet sculptures and collections of what appears to be charity shop fodder. All of which is on display as part of the the Zabludowicz Gallery’s latest exhibition of Andy Holden’s work. As part of their annual commission, the gallery has invited Holden, now in his thirties, to make a new work based on the M!MS ethos.

Andy Holden's new film
Andy Holden’s new film

The result? An 18 month project starting with Holden gathering his childhood chums to record them talking about M!MS in order to write a script for a feature film to be screened at the gallery.

Holden cast a gaggle of teenage drama students from Bedford as the founding members and has them re-enacting the transcribed conversations he had with the original members. This is collaged with recordings of a children’s choir singing original songs written by the M!MS movement, also playing as the film’s soundtrack.

The collaged film is split into seven chapters and is projected amongst a swallowing sculpture, engulfing the room and angling cosy nooks and crannies, which are unusual to the conventional open white gallery space. It is made from parts of the original film staging and represents significant M!MS places. I sat down in James ‘Pups’ MacDowell’s room and chuckled at an original M!MS prank, where Holden and another member approach the public to shake their hand while the other takes a photo – surely exemplifying the irony strain of the manifesto.

Viewing platforms make the viewer really aware of the space
Viewing platforms make the viewer spacially aware
The room is littered with original M!MS artwork: balls of fridge magnet letters glued together, photographs of people made 3D doll’s arm’s attached and a collection of multicoloured thread bobbins.

Holden makes the viewer very aware of the space. A staircase leading to a viewing platform, like a landing on a film set, with no attached rooms and another collection of snow globes, shoe horns and original chintzy ornaments.

Back downstairs and through a corridor is the second room, concerned with youth and childhood, and entitled Last Stop for Good Old Times (after The Age of Innocence) 1999-2013. More collections, this time in the form of 300 kitsch reproductions of paintings of children hoarded by Holden’s alter ego, Rudolf Schmidt. The quantity of doe-eyed child’s faces made the expansive room feel more empty – and slightly creepy.

 300 kitsch reproductions of paintings of children hoarded by Holden’s alter ego
300 kitsch reproductions of paintings of children hoarded by Holden’s alter ego

The ironic ideas of M!MS have fizzled out for Holden so this project acts as a restropective for a still very infant movement. The multi-media exhibition awakens the senses and transports the viewer into the founders’ 16 year old minds.

It left me thinking, blimey, that’s a lot of work for someone so young to achieve.

This is box title
Free admission Thurs-Sat 12-6pm. Until 15th December at Zabludowicz Collection, Prince of Wales Road, NW5

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  • leslieworks Leslie

    Went to the opening of this great show. What a treat. Hotdogs, dairy ice cream cones, plenty of beer, wine, all kinds of people. It was a breathtaking exhibition, with the short art films scattered throughout being the most poignant. Covering thoughts, observations and music, so touching. It really did transport me to a youthful time, and keep me in a kind of suspended animation of joyful contemplation. There’s so many nooks and crannies, and interesting places to rest your gaze and arouse inquisition. I had to go around numerous times to feel I really soaked it all in. Had to make some souvenir purchases, too, to round of this most eventful of outings.