Nick Hackworth

Nathaniel Mellors, Matt’s Gallery

Essays & Reviews Evening Standard

Based on “the physical landscape of a night’s television”, this exhibition both suffers and benefits in equal measure from its resemblance to the “real thing”. Eight video works are scattered throughout the large darkened gallery, some projected onto large screens and others displayed on video monitors of various sizes.

A number of the pieces take aim, more or less explicitly, at standard TV programme formats. In Gameshow, an inane quiz is rendered amusingly creepy by its transposition into on-screen text, complete with Stephen Hawking-style voice-over. The dialogue jerks mechanically back and forth as if an Autocue was prompting every utterance, right down to the stutters and nervous giggles of the contestants. Transport Café apes the banality of the fly-on-the-wall format by being an extremely dull record of people hanging around a transport café, but somehow manages to get away with it and even raises a laugh or two.

Elsewhere, Nathaniel Mellors reveals an alarming fixation with Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis Presley’s infamously exploitative manager. Bravely donning prosthetics and false facial hair, Mellors easily succeeds in emulating the low-down hound dog. In one piece, the Colonel Parker character chomps on the dog-end of a cigar and fills us in on his own evening’s television viewing. In another, the Colonel lies, inexplicably but to good comic affect, between the doors of an elevator that repeatedly, but unsuccessfully, attempt to close around him.

While clearly holding some kind of critical distance from its subject, the show retains an affectionate, rather than sneering, attitude towards the material it emulates and parodies. A little too affectionate, perhaps. Some of the less amusing pieces suffer from low production values and banal subject matter — the twin vices of low-budget TV that are too often transformed into virtues within the world of video art.

Compared, however, with the agonies of recent small screen classics, such as Changing Rooms and The Weakest Link, even these pieces hold their own.

Until 1 April. Matt’s Gallery, 44 Copperfield Rd, E3; 020 8983 1771