June 2021

Review of Uplands: Utopia I.O.U. in Art Monthly

"Soaps, embedded with building-site mud, are available at Bobinska Brownlee in Islington to 'wash your face dirtier, while reflecting on who owns the land, and how it is used, in this rapidly changing part of London'. Prior to any such anti-cleansing, viewers sit on drain covers to watch the central work of artist, writer and stand-up comedian Louise Ashcroft's show. Uplands: Utopia I.O.U. is another soap of sorts: a 20-minute animation composed by sequential rearrangements of digitally collaged fragments found on an industrial estate adjacent to her home in Walthamstow, it tells of the traumas, love lives and day-to-day crises of a cast conjured from trash and asphalt. Ashcroft herself narrates, with many barbed asides as she parodies the languages of bureaucracy, industrial development, social-media influencers, psychology, advertising, the wellness industry and more. She allows puns to direct the meaning and makes ludic leaps of logic. One character 'suffers from reverse vertigo - the fear of falling upwards, off-planet', while 'substances which identify as glass might be fondue on many planets, due to temperature and pressure, meaning no Canadian Reality TV glassblowing competition could ever be reformatted for Martians.' Ashcroft's mind, to steal her own words, 'has a curatorial logic of landfill, leaking an excess of thoughts that have built up' - perhaps an effect of lockdown. Through her highly entertaining method of matching one set of absurdities with another, Ashcroft skewers the irrelevance of 'utopian' investment strategies aimed at those living in cities and whose lives are treated as disposable fodder. Their embodiment as rubbish is not altogether fool."
Paul Carey-Kent, Art Monthly, June 2021, No.447