Michał Budny, Untitled (2010)

Two or three millimetres are all that separate the showpiece in Michał Budny’s exhibition from the most workmanlike and mundane results of a bank holiday weekend’s DIY.

Invited by the SLG to show in their Matsudaira Wing, the Polish artist has done what any new arrival to this domestic space might have thought to do. He has whacked up shelves in an alcove.

They look brand new. He has not even painted them. Were you not to read the notes to go with the exhibition, you might not even notice the twist. Budny’s shelves are all just a tiny bit bowed, by only millimetres, as if from the weight of unseen books.

Since the show is called Author, you would be forgiven for asking where these tomes might be. Perhaps this author, like Joyce, is invisible and paring his nails. Perhaps he is simply dead.

Either way his powers are waning. The shelves are not unique, because two sets in two different rooms comprise the full installation. And the work is untitled, as if Budny disclaims all authority.

This show has the potential to enrage contemporary art sceptics, should any find themselves at the South London Gallery. But there is a lot to be said for Budny’s shelves, more certainly than meets the eye.

Michal Budny is at South London Gallery until 28 November.  See gallery website for more details. This piece was written for Culture24.

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