The survey exhibition is not usually associated with emerging artists; it sits more comfortably with a review of a life's work, rather than nascent practice. Retrospectively work can be shaped to make sense but the contemporary is constantly shifting – contradictory, confrontational, evolving and yet to be resolved – it doesn’t have the ease of knowing where it is heading. This is a survey exhibition but also an assessment of how things are now.
A survey can be the simple act of looking, or a framework for observing and assessing. In Kathryn Lloyd’s catalogue essay she says, “… it refers both to an overview and to a detailed examination. It can trace the physicality of land and the temporality of history. In its fundamental meaning, we are all surveyors [...] We survey to examine and to understand – sometimes to placate our own preconceptions or to momentarily delve into something we have not or, cannot, experience ourselves […] surveys are part of an attempt to find causality.” In some ways a survey is a flattening out, an approach that sidesteps an overtly curatorial narrative born of hierarchy or connoisseurship. Survey explores topics including the family, domestic and gendered/ queer roles, climate change, community film-making and a wider exploration of the current socio-political climate in the UK. The resulting works span a breadth of disciplines and approaches.
A Hollywood Film in which Climate Change is Averted (2018) is a new work by Chris Alton that calls on our collective responsibility to address major social and political issues that will impact future generations. For the exhibition, Alton has produced a banner that utilises similar aesthetics used by trade unions, social movements and community spaces to act as a call for change and to allow ourselves the opportunity to imagine alternative outcomes.
Simeon Barclay presents two new mixed media wall based panels titled Decoy (2018) and A Track with No Name (2018). Drawing from his extensive archive that includes music journals, fashion magazines, comics and other ephemera, Barclay refers to this repository as “conditioning for all the senses, a bequest of a set of masculine gestures, postures and attitudes that I’m trying to work through”.
Hazel Brill's We gathered around the puddle, smiling patiently (2018) is a sculptural, video installation positioned on the floor of the gallery to suggest a puddle, pond, or rock pool found in a city, embedded in the pavement. The viewer is drawn into an unfolding narrative played out on a screen, masked by a water-like surface.
Flo Brooks' No body feels right, so why am I any different? (2018) is a new three-dimensional painting by Flo Brooks that explores ideas surrounding hygiene, normativity and morality as they are projected onto the body and into the home. Brooks self-identifies as a queer transperson, and their own experiences often feed into the scenarios depicted. In this new work they examine the trope of body as home, describing a frenetic and heightened domestic scene where people, practices and objects are engaged in various forms of hygienic bodily and architectural improvement.
Song Drapes (2018) by Emma Cousin is from an emerging body of work that explores the point of collapse, the breaking point and the moment before an implosion or explosion. A large painting shows the body as a puzzle of figures supporting each other and holding each other up, the moment just before the overstretched figures topple over or pull one another apart. Throughout the work the body becomes the lynchpin to explore subjects such as hysteria, suspension, weight, mobility, agility, embarrassment and acceptance.
Joe Fletcher Orr's work, Artist’s Shit (2018) is a new neon work that was conceived during a conversation between the artist and his dad about Piero Manzoni in which his dad declared: “Manzoni was full of shit”. Often made in collaboration with members of his family, Orr’s sculptures, performances and installations use humour to undermine the ‘seriousness’ of the art world, and the authority of the art object.
The word of mouse (grok your cornea gumbo) (2018) is a new film work by Thomas Goddard that reflects on our social and psychological experience of the digital age. This new work forms a dystopian account of digital consumerism as a type of 'soft fascism’, where the subject ultimately challenges us to face forms of manipulation and ignorance whether on a personal or global level, through mass media and economic-led propaganda.
Ashley Holmes' Good To Us (2018) is a new live presentation which has developed from a written adaptation of Dope, a poem by American writer, music critic and poet, Amiri Baraka (AKA LeRoi Jones and Imamu Amear Baraka). In the original, Baraka takes on the persona of a black preacher giving a sermon. In an erratic, humorous and satirical manner, the speaker convinces his audience to believe that it “musta been the devil” responsible for the problems confronting black people throughout history. This new work has been informed by Holmes’ research that attempts to dissect the complexities of what occurs when a collective ideology is challenged and/or put at risk.
Lindsey Mendick’'s I’ll Always Love You But I Don’t Always Like You (2018) is a new work made in collaboration with the artist’s close family and is comprised of raku fired ceramics displayed on a dining room table. They are replicas of a collection of objects from Mendick’s parents’ family home. Her mother’s collection of teapots, a lobster serving bowl, her dad’s Margaret Thatcher nutcracker, Art Deco lamps; a ‘Compare the Meerkat’ selection of soft toys. Some are antique heirlooms, some have sentimental value and some are bought from Poundland on a whim.
Channels: How to be a good mother, artist, wife and lover? (2018) by Nicole Morris is a new fabric appliqué viewing system, which is activated by a performer and functions as a means of displaying moving image. Each section of the appliqué creates four domestic patterns which operate as internal settings; a bathroom, living room, kitchen and utility. These screens will be displayed on a rotating pulley and operated by a performer to correlate with a series of new black and white 16mm films that will be projected once a day.
Taking its title from a heading in a guide book to Foley sound production, Landing Good Sync Will Pay Dividends (2018) by Milly Peck further explores her interest in theatrical sets and the use of slapstick humour to choreograph a viewer as an additional element of the work. For Survey, Peck has incorporated sound for the first time following a period of research into Foley – the recreation of everyday sound effects that accompany film, television, animation and other media in post-production.
The Movie Makers is a short film about Anna Raczynski’s relationship with the members of her amateur filmmaking group The Pendle Movie Makers, based in Colne, East Lancashire. Originally founded in the 1960s many members (some now aged well into their 80s) pursue community-based documentary recordings and are often interested in what is disappearing from their community. Raczynski's own documentary addresses themes of ageing, change, technology and community.
Will Sheridan Jr presents two new bodies of work: Ownership Boxes (2018) is made from dumped cardboard collected from outside closed Mayfair fashion stores. The flattened boxes are reconstructed, painted and mounted with photographs shot in collaboration with artist and photographer Camilla Bach, to recreate a vague brand visual layout, resembling fashion ads and billboards. In Pastels (2018) The artist focuses on men and women dressed in clothes that resemble fashion advertisements from high to low culture. Both bodies of work reaffirm the sexualisation of consumer culture, and the manipulative relationship that we have with advertising and fashion imagery.
Suspended and slowly rotating, Happy Happy Leaf (2018) by Rae-Yen Song is a new kinetic sculptural installation of an obscure being. This sculptural work is the central element of an as-yet unrealised array of objects, documents and practices, which will see a cast of invented characters assembling for an elaborate ceremony, a worshipful celebration of music and dance. Song is interested in the collective energy and emotion that ceremonial gatherings breed, how intrinsic ‘belonging’ is to human nature and how the powerful build-up of social energy can realign reality and effect significant change.
Frank Wasser playfully works with narrative to explore themes surrounding labour, economies and storytelling. New works are included in the exhibition, including a piece of newsprint, titled (02.11.20), is a fragment of a free Metro newspaper from 02.11.20. It contains details of a controversy engulfing the return to a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, a bill passed making zero-hour contracts illegal, and NHS concerns on the rise of screen viewing related illness. The slow abrogation of the future (2018) shown as part of the initial exhibition was a performance in which two subjects confront the objectivity of time and architecture through a dialogue of slow choreography, listening and an acknowledgment of a failed common language. The performers directly address the act of being observed in a place of historical observation – the exhibition.