John Bock at the Barbican

Although I knew that there was little chance that the new Barbican Curve exhibition was going to be anywhere near as entertaining as Céleste Boursier-Mougenot's fabulous birds, I went along to see the new installation by John Bock: Curve-Vehicle incl. π- Man-(.) this week.

This is the first major UK commission for German artist Bock, who is best-known for his absurd and eccentric interventions that that combine sculpture, film, installation art and performance. The 'Curve-Vehicle' itself is a four and a half metre high structure constructed from a patterned grille of steel in bright primary colours, which to me at least, was vaguely reminiscent of climbing frames in children's playgrounds - although according to the exhibition notes they in fact reference "the colourful fences often seen in the former East Germany", so there you go.

This construction is mounted on a London taxi chassis, and is chaotically and idiosyncratically furnished with a jumble of plastics, fabrics, found and hand-made objects that range from old LPs to a Sylvanian family dolls-house. A series of ovoid chambers each appear intended for a particular purpose - from sleeping to listening to music.

The vehicle is designed to be able to 'dock' with a series of other insect-like pod structures, which Bock refers to as 'parasites' and which dangle from the gallery walls and ceiling. These are kitted out as a noodle bar (furnished with packets of noodles and Chinese lanterns) and clothing and second hand shops. Altogether, these structures form an alternative, experimental urban space, alluding to the work of iconoclastic 1960s architects such as Archigram, who decreed 'the house is an appliance for carrying with you, the city is a machine for plugging into'. More specifically, the work also references the space of the Barbican, itself a work of utopian architecture, and a vision of a more fluid and flexible mode of urban life.

As well as the structures themselves, the gallery also features a film of one of the artist's 'lectures' in which an actor operates the vehicle, and participates in a series of chaotic social and commercial transactions with other actors, who play the role of 'shopkeepers' in the surrounding pods. For Bock, however, it is the objects themselves which are the main actors in these absurd and often comedic performances: 'They become active, contain theories and little stories'. Exactly what kind of stories these madcap structures contain, I have to admit I'm not too sure, but watching and speculating is certainly entertaining.

Curve-Vehicle incl. π- Man-(.) will be showing in the Barbican's Curve gallery until 12 September 2010.