The night will consist of screenings, performances, games and Q+A’s to consider the work of the three moving image artists.
Georgieva works across video, installation, sound and performance where improvised lo-fi sets with the camera become a stage to explore “the construction of taste, personal empowerment, and cultural belonging.” May de Kock is an actress and artist who uses elements of magic, rehearsal and other theatrical conventions and Nikhil Vettukattil explores “the role of representational images in framing and remaking lived experience.”
Drawing on the London-based artist’s work responding to the social and historical context of public and private space, the multi-faceted work explores “the history of the Pioneer Health Centre in Peckham and its subsequent conversion into a gated community.”
The moving image installation is informed by extensive research, along with Sagar’s practice around dance, architecture and neurology to express the “complex, changing landscape of public health and the social shift towards a more egocentric, user-focused and technology-infused understanding of wellness.”
A blue canvas tote reads ‘Nuts About Peckham’in red screen print. It swings from side to side with each step forward. Keys clink against a phone or something similar inside. I’m here as a tourist, more so than when I lived here as a student, and I’m filming a man in front of me walking up the high street, because both of us are carrying the same blue bag. Today is the inaugural Peckham Festival, running September 8 to 11, sponsored by local Acorn Estate Agents, whose free merchandise I am paying for in my co-opted labor as an ad campaign. It’s a weekend-long event across new and established businesses, creative organisations, community groups, restaurants and bars in the south-east London suburb. The bags contain flyers and a stapled, colour printout of some of Acorn’s properties available to buy or let. This kind of strategic marketing hangs awkwardly over a 20-something-artist in Peckham’s shoulder. A heavy token for the indirect cultural contribution to the market value of property in the area. In the past decade especially, the largely working-class multicultural area of Peckham has gained international recognition within the art world and beyond for its creative output. With a range of practices, motivations and organisational models, young artists have moved to the area with increasing frequency to forge new localised networks nurtured by nearby educational institutions; Camberwell College of Art and Goldsmiths University. A previously neglected inner London suburb, Peckham was known to a British television audience through two brothers’ unsuccessful economic ambitions in Only Fools And Horses which ran on the BBC until 1991.Its early-noughties realities of cheap rent, vacant commercial buildings and flexible private landlords offered creatives access to Peckham’s property rental market.
Several blocks west of the municipal high street amenities of Rye Lane, lies Bellenden Road, a locale that emerged in the latter part of the 00s as a humorously named exemplar of gentrification in Peckham (see here for the translation of the anatomical British slang word ‘bellend’). In 2001, Bellenden Renewal Area, a scheme organised by Southwark Council, encouraged regeneration to happen locally by involving traders and residents with as few outside contractors as possible. The project included community-initiated commissions by several established local artists and included murals, customised pavement stones, railings, lampposts etc.; the most notorious of which were a set of aptly phallic bollards by artist Antony Gormley that now lines the area’s small streets. Southwark Council saw the concentrated regeneration plans of the area as a prototype for communally-driven regeneration initiatives.
Bellenden Road was also home and studio to John Latham. The late artist’s former residence at number 210, more recently known as Flat Time House, closed its doors to the public earlier this year. In 2003, several years before his death, Latham declared the property a living sculpture. In 2015, his estate was no longer able to fund the project and a failed crowdfunding attempt to buy the property forced the Flat Time House organisation to vacate in July 2016 with plans to continue in the future in a different format. The public legacy of both this artist’s practice and the Flat Time House programme, we can assume will become a point of provenance on the market as the living sculpture returns to real estate.
In the City of London’s beating heart, a room in a former office building on Holborn Viaduct becomes the previously Mayfair-based commercial gallery space Project Native Informant’snew home. Current Affairs, Georgie Nettell’s third exhibition at the gallery, which ran from September 29 to October 29, displayed a series of foam-mounted and framed photographs. The images referred to recent moments in the English capital; topical subjects that ranged from post-Brexit politics to the tales of London’s gentrifying business-folk. They were social-networked in-jokes to some, seemingly neutralised cosmopolitan images to others. The exclusivity of the (assumed) specific gallery community that Nettell’s work is displayed to is codified into the compositions subjects, as a sub-community with a stake in the mechanism of the creative gentrifiers, establishments and political affairs referenced.
The works, as described in the press release, were photographs shot ‘phone-to-screen.’ A row of well-kept London terraces is the home of new UK Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, a key figure behind the recent Brexit campaign for Britain to leave the European Union. An interior from Brick Lane’s Cereal Killer Cafe, selling imported cereals with a price tag of £3.50 a bowl, was subject to attacks by anti-gentrification protesters and interrogating reporters on live TV. Current Affairs trips itself out as a quasi-urban-renewal Community Centre for the creative industry worker who priced themselves out of an area.
The gallery itself feels aesthetically rough around the edges, like an artist-led project space or live/work studio. The interior and images infect one another’s registers against a view of the city from the gallery’s third floor windows. IKEA desks and a bookshelf are used to delineate gallery from office. The room is lit with fluorescent tubes in recessed ceiling tiles that may have been upgraded daylight bulbs. The interior feels fashionable in its arbitrary features. As a cafe-bar might leave a section of unpainted drywall or exposed brick, the ex-city-centre office bares an environment fitting for Nettell’s show and her subjects. The Current Affairs press release refers to the function of these images as logos for a creative-cultural demographic and the ethical issues around them. Eating a gourmet burger at a chain that conspires with the police to trick and arrest suspected undocumented workers, and smashing up a Foxtons estate agents are both experiences rife with questions of privilege, access and community. These images, in their simplification as signs, critique the viewer demographic and their brand of judgement but do so from within the safe space of a young, successful, commercial gallery where these critiques are the artist’s content and commodity.
Remember The Good Old Days?
If you walk along Drummond Road near Bermondsey Tube Station in South London, there is an incognito relic of artistic activity to look out for. It marks the location of a doctor’s surgery that previously inhabited the site of number 6 to 8, which became the second incarnation of The Woodmill. The artist-led charity rented the space between 2012 and 2014 to continue their Bermondsey-based project of affordable studios, residencies and exhibitions. Two years later the space was sold to developers, demolished and replaced with new flats.
In December 2013, the group commissioned Ilja Karilampi to produce a work across the two external brick walls within the foyer of the former surgery. ‘Medulla Oblangata‘ was stencilled in fluorescent paint illuminated by UV light; a text that the artist’s website called “a sentence based on Wiley lyrics, translated to SMS slang by the local youth.”The work across the two walls read “If I culd bring bck dem days dat made me who i am i wuldnt change a fing coz all the fings in my past created who im ment 2 b.” [sic]. When The Woodmill group left the site early the following year, Karilampi’s work was left behind with the assumption that it would be demolished, along with the rest of the building. What wasn’t predicted was what happened during the construction work. The left-hand-side dividing wall with the Berlin-based artist’s text was retained as an external feature to the new housing development; a gesture towards authenticity on the facade and entrance to the new flats. No one was contacted about this plan to incorporate the former artwork into the design of the new building.
Looking at the wall now on Google street view, the text reads “IF I CULD BRING BCK DEM DAYS DAT MADE ME WHO I AM I WULDNT CHANGE A FING.” Re-authored by the development as something in public view, its function and intention is a skewed addition to the expected paving, flowerbeds and bike racks that one would find in the yard of an inner-city new development. The text wall, in its urban authenticity, violently co-opts multiple layers of identity politics and signification; of the artist’s intent and co-option of local young residents’ re-coding of song lyrics, Wiley’s artistic influence within London’s music and youth cultures and the developers mis-identification. It’s an interesting situation that merges artistic capital into property and re-development with the aim to quickly and efficiently produce something real and experiential but without any specific relation to the context or its histories. An empty slogan for a nonspecific relationship to community, the wall is forced into its second life as nostalgia, with the propagandist sentiment of a ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ poster.
In October 2016, South London Gallery opened a new public garden to the rear of their main gallery. Designed by Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco, in collaboration with 6A architects and Kew Gardens, the project connects the Victorian Peckham Road institution to its residential neighbours with a new gallery entrance from the longstanding Sceaux Gardens Estate.
The garden looks digitally-generated in its layout but was produced by manual, human labor. Several tiered cylindrical basins are designed to become temporary ponds when it rains and also irrigate the new plant life. A box fresh, impersonal materiality of York stone brick, grafted flowerbeds and freshly cured cement keep you firmly, for now, in the experiential realm of the regeneration aesthetic. As you walk away from the gallery, the new pathway slopes down between two rows of Council bungalows that architecturally are at odds with the contemporary design ideologies in use by 6A. Crossing the threshold of an iron gate, Orozco’s flowing bricks come to a halt and the Council Estate paving resumes.
Opening at the same time as Orozco’s garden, in the main gallery space of SLG, Slovakian artist Roman Ondek had a section of the slatted floorboards removed as part of his solo exhibition. It reveals a preserved central inlaid wooden floor from 1891. The central panel reads “The source of art is in the life of a people.” In contrast, as Ondek reveals a floor, Orozco lays one. The latter collaborates with an art institution and architects to bring a specific system of an artist’s identity to a public space connecting a housing community and an art gallery. The former reminds a community — read, a specific labor community of the institution’s workers — of its role as a group responsible to a notion of a people and a public.
Reflecting back on the Bellenden Regeneration Area project from 2001, that part of Peckham was given a unique opportunity to redevelop its streets with public money in a way that wasn’t possible to offer or apply to every borough of London. The project’s community-generated development, with an emphasis on localism, allowed a proportion of the people who would feel the changes to also be influencing them, and to communicate with the creative community presence in the area.
Fast forward back to 2016, and Peckham is increasingly inaccessible, pricing-out its low-income households, artists and businesses. Council properties are regularly sold off on the private market to go on to be developed for profit with the council’s sale capital put into large-scale future contracted re-housing projects. With the recent overground rail line extensions’ regular services between Peckham Rye and the north and the east of the city, Peckham has become more accessible to workers on higher incomes, drastically increasing the rental and property values. These shifts were absorbed into the Acorn Estate Agents investment in the Peckham Festival event. The blue canvas tote bag that celebrated and reflected a new locale felt like a false flag for a faceless ideology of change that no one party can be designated as responsible for but we all commune within.**
Following on from Maheke’s solo show at the gallery, I Lost Track of the Swarm, which aqnb recently reviewed, the pair will discuss how dance has been key to Maheke’s practice and life in articulating and engaging with de-colonial and feminist thoughts.
Both artists work within an emancipatory project, focussing their research through dance in the case of niv Acosta whose ‘CLAPBACK‘ performance piece stunned bodies and the walls they inhabited at Berlin’s KW space back in March, and through installation, video and “furtive interventions” in Maheke’s, who surrounds and impresses the bodies in the rooms and videos that he creates.
Illuminated by a torch attached to his body, Paul Maheke creates a spotlight at South London Gallery. For his I Lost Track of the Swarm solo exhibition he appears on-screen, in the first of two rooms, where fragments of a dance sequence appear across three channels facing different directions. Running March 18 to May 22, the show is part of a series of events that marks the culmination of Maheke’s six-month Graduate residency (2015-16) at the Peckham space. Here he navigates his way through the liminal terrain of video with physical gestures drawing on hip hop —which he spoke about as part of ‘Beyond Beyonce‘ at Open School East last year —and subcultures of queer black identity like the Ballroom scene. The dance explores literal and metaphorical visibility, of bodies taking up space as political presence and resistance. The scanning spotlight suggests both the stage and the dance floor, and speaks of acts of collectivity and survival or of what the press release describes as “gestures of remembrance”, where movement is both expressive and transformative.
A lavender glow on the bottom edges of the screens draws the viewer’s eyes up to the light source which is a glowing ceiling tile and, despite the picturesque hue that saturates the space, inside it is what looks like dead cockroaches, clumps of hair and leaves, but the bugs are plastic and the hair synthetic. Maheke’s dance in the video runs in parallel to the semitransparent light box of objects overhead; in how lighting and music can turn a space into a place of gathering andaffinity, the synthetic hair as a cosmetic extension and assertion of identity. Despite appearing dead, there is a more positive take on transmutation through the symbol of the cockroach as resilient, and as animals that move and communicate in groups. Sewn onto the curtains in the space are sections of text that run across them, and though they remain still, motion is suggested in their content: “to read the waverin’ of the swarm as a resilient flicker, a gesture towards transformation.”
The second room is also suffused with a lavender tint from four strips of UV lighting that make the white synthetic floor rug glow. We hear a 23-minute sound piece by producer Nkisi, mixing Congo’s Leele and West African club music, as footsteps emerge and distorted vocals repeat the phrase “dance towards transformation”. There are two alternative ways to listen, through two speakers on the wall or through two sets of headphones at a greater intensity, and it is a contradictory space of contemplation and activity as people sit down on the rug to hear more closely while the beat induces their bodies to movement. The carpet and headsets, along with the custom-made curtain rails and bare floorboards in the next room emphasise the domestic architecture of the exhibition space. A tension between dynamism and stasis permeates both rooms, between the moving body in the videos and the beat of its soundtrack, in contrast to the quietude, the calm of the the floor rug and the inanimate debris collected in the ceiling tile.
The animation of the gallery through light and music is undercut by discomfort, from looking up and seeing outlines of cockroachesm, and hair, and leaves, and dirt from the street suggesting different realities behind the facade. The weaves that can be found in nearby salons in South London Gallery’s surrounding neighbourhoods reference both local Afro-Caribbean communities, as well as those in France where Maheke was born and studied. In using cultural forms from Francophone Africa, including Nkisi’s musical references, the exhibition presents diaspora communities as acts and spaces of liberation.
Maheke’s I Lost Track of the Swarm looks at the production and articulation of subjectivity in relation to the collective or said ‘swarm’, and the use of bodily comportment in relation to self-expression and desire. Through the diffused purple lighting and materials, it explores what the accompanying text calls ‘black femme’ subjectivities within a wider exploration of the position of Black artists in the West, in the face of institutional racism, gentrification and cultural appropriation.**
How can you touch something by not touching it? Freud’s aphorism, “touch is the first act of possession” hovers over the issue like a threat, says the event’s text.
‘Noli Me Tangere’ (‘Touch Me Not’ in Latin) aims to overthrow the privileging of the visual in favour of the sensorial: “It is an inherently feminist art practice to muddy the translation between the see-able and the say-able.”
After the premiere ofSophie Cundale‘s film ‘After Picasso, God’ at the Peckhamplexsold out last month, a second screening will be available at the same location on March 9.
Cundale’s film, which was co-commissioned by Serpentine Cinema Series and South London Gallery is a tale of a woman who goes to see a hypnotherapist to address an unwanted addiction. As a part of her cure, objects, images and people are transformed and pain is brought to the surface and removed.
Artist and writer Heman Chong opens a new solo exhibition titled An Arm, A Leg and Other Stories, running at South London Gallery from December 11 until February 28, 2016.
In an attempt to explore ideas of exchange and “the role of rules and regulations in determining codes of behaviour”, Chong has placed a million blacked-out business cards across the gallery floor, accompanied by daily performances in which participants are taught to recite a short story that is transmitted by word of mouth.
As part of his show, Chong has also invited writers Mira Mattar, and Natasha Soobramanien and Luke Williams (who are all part of an informal residency programme for fiction writers at the gallery) to work on their own writing projects, which will be published in excerpts upon the completion of the residency programme.
The performance, developed in conjunction with Moulton’s recent video, Mindplace Thoughtstream, comes woven through some of the artist’s video works for a layered multimedia experience of the “anxiety and dreams associated with bio medical advance and alternative medicine”.
The Californian-born artist, whose background lies in Art and Anthropology, has made a lifelong project of her ongoing video/performance series, Whispering Pines, in which her alter ego, Cynthia, is healed by an “Avon lady/witch-healer”. Building on themes of self-healing and the “hysterics of personal improvement”, Moulton’s recent explores the gaps between the catharsis and cliché intrinsic to quests of self-improvement.
The series brings together presentations of new works and commissioned writing by artists and writers considered emerging, using the format of an open forum to invite critical discussion and feedback in a relaxed atmosphere.
The event will showcase the UK premiere of Hirsch’s Playground at Goldsmiths’George Wood Theatre on July 25, a play by the New York-based video and performance artist drawing on her experiences of ‘coming-of-age’ and the construction of gender and sexuality against the backdrop of late-90s AOL chat rooms.
July 26 will feature the UK premiere of Sutela’s New Degrees of Freedom, a living media project by the Helsinki-based artist and writer, as well as a panel discussion between Hirsch, Sutela and art historian and writer Giulia Smith at the SLG space.
The brother-duo, responsible for the creation of Birmingham’s Eastside Projects, works in a range of media, including drawing, sculpture and installation, bringing their eclectic style to everything from solo exhibitions to public projects.
For the panel discussion (chaired by Jo Melvin), the Bloors will explore the ideas they developed during their residency at Flat Time House (and where they now have an exhibition), also welcoming curator Jes Fernie, artist Nils Norman and art historian Richard Clay, into a conversation about vandalism, public art and the art of appropriation.
A re-staging of what was originally shown as part of the National Pavilion of Iraq at Venice Biennale 2013, the acclaimed exhibition presents the multi-media works of eleven various artists, most of whom live and work in Iraq.
To complete the spectator’s ostensible passage into Iraq, the gallery is equipped with a salon-like chamber where visitors are invited to rest and enjoy some tea, surrounded by relevant reading material and learning a bit about Iraqi culture.
For one reason or another people are just fascinated with Synaesthesia. The condition where people can perceive sound through colour. Unsurprisingly, it’s not uncommon among artists from Kwes to Nick Carlisle of Peepholes. Hence, South London GalleryMute Sound, which explores this fascination with visual sound in experimental film in its Clore Studio this Wednesday, August 7.
Featuring films by Ian Helliwell, Charlotte Prodger, Florian and Michael Quistrebert, Steve Roden, Richard Sides and Jennifer West, the programme explores how “imagery, rhythm, shape, colour, and movement creates visual compositions that resonate as sound and music in our eyes and minds.”
The Nina Stewart Artist Residency is now open for submissions for post graduate artists finishing between October 2012 and September 2013. Last year Eoghan Ryancompleted the six month residency at South London Gallery culminating in his Oh Wicked Flesh! exhibition earlier this year.
The selected resident will receive rent free accommodation at the gallery’s artist flat, studio space and a £5,000 bursary, as well as monthly mentoring sessions and a final exhibition at SLG with the chance to produce an accompanying publication, between November 2013 and April 2014. Applications close on Friday, September 6. See the SLG website for details. **
An unexpected trait of sound art is a love of silence as much as noise. On show at South London Gallery‘s At The Moment of Being Heard, pioneers such as Baudouin Oosterlynck, crys cole and Eli Keszler present works that have us perch our ear down close to the floor or caught unawares, as a piano wire triggers off amplifiers and a vacuous hush erupts. Somehow the discipline has always had an aura of being difficult, even inaccessible. Yet here, sonorous works are direct, at times even warm.
It’s not hard to see sensitivity to nature in many of these artists’ work. The characters behind the field recordings often plying their trade in places beyond the pale of the city walls, in much the same way that Impressionists brought their canvasses to life in fresh country air. ‘Variations of Silence’ (1990-1991) by Oosterlynck has the tone of an avant-garde piece but nevertheless appears aesthetically close to the work of a child. Its use of crayon colours, on ripped pieces of paper, coupled with fantastical figures in abstract sketch-like form at first seems simply bizarre, especially due to two raised relief maps centred on the tables. It gradually becomes clear, though, that these silences have been mapped out with small flags in varying places, the result being that sketches on all sides of the room describe every variation of bliss with a mix of facts, anecdotes and humour.
With and without a physical presence ‘filling a space with salt (in two parts)’ (2013), by the Canadian cole, also gently illustrates how an understated recording need not be any less powerful. Made up of fallen crystals, the piece emerges from a vent on one side of the gallery, as a triangular mountain of powder fills a void and creates a soft white peak. The process of its creation plays out over 108 minutes, under a grill at the opposite corner of the main room, cleverly sifting notions of materiality, sculpture and elemental force without any bitter hint of academia.
One element of cole’s work relies on is the hidden technology behind its production and it’s a magic of sorts that multi-instrumentalist Keszler wholeheartedly rejects in ‘NEUM’ (2013). A construction, built of long piano wire, criss-crosses to form a geometric star nailed up with pin blocks, micro controllers and DC Motors programmed to amplify the destruction of a solemn silence, as echoes from machine-activated notes scrape out a terse existence across the space.
Much of the vivacity of visual pieces, across gallery walls, comes from the curatorial synaesthesia dictated between media. Without it, photographs and inkjet printed dots often appear abstracted rather than absolute, while low frequency rhythms rein us in.