Marlies Augustijn reviews The Salamander Devours Its Tail Twice, curated by Ashley Middleton Projects at Gallery 46 in London, for FAD Magazine:
“How do sociocultural expectations and political pressures affect individuals’ behaviour and understanding of oneself? This is the urgent but immense topic that New York curator Ashley Middleton attempts to grapple in her group show The Salamander Devours its Tail Twice, taking place at Gallery 46 in East London. Middleton was inspired to do this show through her own journey of leaving New York City and settling in London. She experienced directly what it means when conflicting pressures of different cultures influence who you are as a person. The show includes 26 visual artists who approach the topic with curiosity and self-criticism. These are the crucial factors that make the vast thematic of the show feel satisfyingly unpacked into tangible examples.
I am initially drawn to the show for its intriguing title that cleverly encompasses the show´s main premise. The title is inspired by Ray Bradbury’s dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451 (1953) in which
firemen are ordered to burn all books – the complete annihilation of cultural heritage. The firemen are compared to salamanders, as these amphibians are believed to be capable of surviving fires. The swallowing of tails is based on the ancient symbol of the Ouroboros in which a snake eats its own tail. These metaphors combined, the ‘salamanders’ or firemen in Fahrenheit 451 thus manage to ‘eat’ themselves. They deconstruct their own identity that was originally grounded in the politically enforced habit of destroying all cultural history. Middleton’s significant addition of ‘twice’ adds a scepticism to the optimistic idea that we can indeed escape systems of cultural and political pressure. Are we not in a vicious circle that ultimately and always brings us back to behaving as expected from us, bound by the accepted rules and norms?” Continue reading…