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Review: Laika

Wednesday 18 April 2012
Ryan Monro’s exhibition at Long White Cloud on Hackney Road, disconcertingly across the road from the flat of a recent murder victim but perhaps fittingly located for the dystopian themes the art conveys. It concerns the ill-fated voyage of a Russian Dog into Space in the 50’s who was the first creature to enter into orbit. Space is cited as the ultimate Utopian aspiration for humankind, I would concur with that notion, not so many moons ago a friend was apparently dating the son of a business magnate who had invested in a new venture to make commercial space tourism possible, I was hopeful of a trip and told her to not mess it up but I gather that she did. The allure of that unknown world that is almost beyond comprehension, indeed even seeing the view of the earth taken from outside makes it hard to understand our daily lives. It is the humans wish for perfection hindered by their limitations which ends in tears, ultimately the attempts to foster utopia result in a dystopia. Laika, our lovely Universe bound pooch was a symbol for the future and these longings for intellectual and metaphysical betterment, however as was only recently discovered, the poor pup died within a few hours after the launch from over heating, and so it transpires that her spacecraft was not even designed to be retrievable and that Laika had always been intended to die and a rather more sinister picture emerges of humanity as people who profess principles of hope and belief in a better world but before they get ahead of themselves and strive to attain knowledge of Space, they ought to begin with the real world. On April 14th 1958, five months after launch, Laika’s remains disintegrated during re-entry.
The exhibition acts as an ode to Laika featuring paintings of her merry adventures betwixt the stars, in equal measure endearing and amusing, we see Laika fashion funky helmets, make some other canine friends in some nebula or other and model the curious contented expression of a dog who has been extending his head out of a car window and had a jolly excellent time. Using neon and technicolour paints and futuristic foil sculptures, it was visually engaging and would certainly look fetching in a room of your choosing for they were all on sale but I found most charming its notional premise where a world was re-imagined in which Laika didn’t die or at least not before she had a lot of fun exploring Space.
Words: Carly Florentine