Large sculptures of young androgynous women crowd the space of the gallery, and challenge and exaggerate what the press release calls “classical sculptural tropes [which] evoke images of museum collections and historical archives.” The statues are not passive, but return our gaze.
The exhibition marks a departure in previous ways of working by von Zeipel; while the artists’ figures used to focus on group dynamics and identities formed through subcultures, the works now explore isolation and the individual where “schisms form, group identities split, tribes become divided.”**
“…his brother was forced to leave as well, but he escaped by hiding in a coffin,”Aria Deanis talking about the circumstances under which her great uncle fled Yazoo City, Mississippi. Her grandfather was run out of town as well. The anecdote is prompted by a question about what motivated the Los Angeles-based artist and writer to make ‘Wata (Yazoo, MS),’ a video included in White ppl think I’m radical,ajoint exhibition with Melbourne-based artist Hamishi Farah— whom we await on a Google Doc form.
The two recently met in London to put on the show, running at Arcadia Missa February 17 to April 29, with a press release that opens: “The exhibition is the friendship the friendship is the exhibition.” Named after a lyric by rapper Quavo in Kanye West’s ‘Champions (Round & Round),’ White ppl think I’m radical is an ode to community, support, and connectivity, with work that springs from months of online conversation between Farah and Dean. They have been internet friends for some time and are active members of an unofficial, small online community of black artists, the global african diaspora who’ve found a space to operate and connect on the internet.
“We don’t really have art niggas in Australia,” writes Farah, “I guess that makes me thirsty as fuck to connect and bounce positions and thoughts on art and the black diaspora.” The three of us live-rant on the Google Doc form. We differentiate our voices using different font and color choices. I opt for black bold arial font, Dean writes in the same, but bright red and not bold, Farah writes in an orangey-brown Cambria, highlighted in grey. We are each in different time zones: Pacific, Eastern, and Australian Eastern Daylight Time so chat on the form offers us more flexibility than Gchat or Skype. Conversations bounce around non-linearly, each of our cursors interjecting on any sentence being typed at any given time.
The energy is positive and fast. Communication is natural and the two seem to complement each other’s thoughtfulness well. Both articulate the complexities of blackness under white supremacy with a stress on community as a form of resistance and portraiture. Their highly attuned conceptual rigor not only yields exceptional work but also functions as a platform for survival, giving Dean and Farah the awareness needed to be four steps ahead of any potential backlash. Art becomes a very specific tool used to evince a shared experience, a network, a reclamation of image and trauma.
The work in White ppl think I’m radical is secondary to the the experience of Dean and Farah’s friendship. This isn’t to say it can’t stand on its own. It can and it does, proposing a whole new way of looking at black portayal. Dean worked with Aallyah Wright — whom she met on Facebook and lives in the same region from which her grandfather was expelled, and creditsas her collaborator on both the video piece and the photographs included in the show. Dean says, “I used Aallyah as a proxy for myself, she is my age and is also black. I tried to render us like equal partners in producing the work, or at least blur the distinction between our ‘selves’, referencing the problem of black ontology and subjectivity.”
Along with this, Dean and Farah’s attention to camaraderie is indicative of their atypical priorities when putting on a group or two-person show. They emphasize the importance of ‘holding space’ for one another, rather than taking it for themselves as individual artists. This gesture activates their conceptual framework as it becomes a lived experience that is then reflected by the work: the importance of community, Quavo, and the power of an inside joke.
** What was it like meeting and working together in person? What was your relationship like before you met?
AD: Yes, it was our first time meeting. Before meeting in London, Hamishi and I were friends on Facebook and such; like part of what some people (maybe Winslow Laroche coined the term?) called ‘black net fam’ or something, ha ha. So I think we were in this network and also had other mutual friends offline and stuff. But once Hamishi asked me to do the show with him, we started Facebook chatting a lot under the auspices, haha, of planning the show out but mostly just chatted and gossiped and sent links to new songs we were listening to.
I think at some point it took on this diaristic format because of the time difference. I found that really interesting. And we also talked about art! Ha ha, I think of ‘the exhibition is the friendship’ in the sense that we thought alongside each other for a few months, despite the distance. And, at least from my end, the stuff shown at Arcadia Missa was the result of everything that happened in that period — including but not limited to our correspondence.
HF: The internet is cool but there is a cap on how much you can do, I think a lot of the frustration, gaslighting, and difficulties around being a black artist has such physical repercussions. So it’s really nice and crucial to be in the same space as one another, being able to make sure you can take care of one another and talk shit in person with fewer distractions. I think the white peripheries online (while you’re in chat and your stream’s still going) sometimes makes chatting a much less private space than a restaurant or something.
I think regarding Winslow’s ‘nigga net fam,’ the first thing is to use whatever resources we can get a hold of to link up, then stuff can come after that. You know like you don’t want to project your idea of ‘the answer’ or ‘the way forward’ but just work on putting each other in the circumstance to come up with it together. I feel really lucky to be offered those resources and so lucky for Aria being down with it. I think hanging out with her in London and making the show together had such a huge impact on the outcomes and how easy it all was. I think in ‘the exhibition is the friendship,’ prioritising being together, made making work and showing it so simple and takes a lot of weight off. You know, like art is a tool to enable stuff like this, rather than us working our asses off anxiously to uphold the sanctity of some idea of art. Because of this I couldn’t really imagine it being more successful.
** Was this your first time in London? Also what was your experience like in the city, together, and also navigating white spaces, such as the gallery for example?
AD: In terms of white spaces — it’s unfortunately par for the course, I suppose. Like Hamishi is in Australia — sooo white, ha ha — and I’m in LA usually, but went to liberal arts school and I work in the art world. So, for me at least, I’d say it was no whiter a space than anything else. But I think the fact that we were there together was really great, in that maybe the space wasn’t that white on this occasion?
I think, in planning the show, we were really interested in the possibilities of doing it in a gallery space, where we’re really speaking to each other more than to the audience. I don’t know if we stuck to those efforts, but I think thinking about each other — at least for me — was sort of freeing. Of course, the white art-world gaze still exists, but I like to think that it’s getting the cold shoulder, at least a bit and not through any grand statement, just a sort of mundane lack of concern. This is my hope at least!
HF: I really consider my nigga net fam family. Maybe this is patriarchal but I felt so ready to run up on anybody who threatened that. I feel really grateful to be in the position to even have that feeling. In a very real way because it was in person. I mean, I consider [Aria] and [the others’] future, also my own future. I don’t have much real family so this is something very tangible to protect and try to help flourish. Even if it is a patriarchal thing, it is nice to find something in masculinity that I can feel proud of. You know, like exactly what Aria was saying: these people’s futures are one of the only reasons I put up with the bullshit and work to try to thrive. On top of the trauma I’ve experienced here, being in Australia is so difficult because I’m so far away from them.
In the same sense I have black family in Australia, whether they be from African diaspora or my Aboriginal family here. A big thing going to London and the UK for the first time was a feeling that I needed to convey my anger, disappointment, and frustrations with the colonial histories. I was going to say something at the opening, but I got the chance to make a longer and more eloquent statement during a lecture I gave at Goldsmiths (which is viewable on my Facebook). I feel like if I didn’t say something, or at least burn a flag, I would be letting a lot of people and myself down.
AD: I wish the word ‘squad’ weren’t so overused by annoying whites these days because I would be like ‘DO IT FOR THE SQUAAAAAD.’ Because that is how I feel. I agree about the future thing. It’s the ontology of the squad, ha ha.
** Earlier you mentioned your correspondence leading up to the exhibition. Aria said you would exchange songs, what’s the first song that pops into your head that was shared with you?
AD: Oh, that is so hard, ha ha. I have a terrible memory. There are songs, I don’t know if they were in our chats or songs we were listening to in London.
I think of ‘T-shirt’ by Migos when I think of Hamishi. Maybe just because one time he made a Facebook status that was like ‘mama told me not to sell work’ and I really don’t know if that is the actual lyric of the song but it’s how I sing it now?
Also, maybe this is a good time to make sure everyone reading this interview knows that the exhibition title is a Quavo lyric. Everyone should also know the lines that succeed it:
‘They tried to turn me to an animal But white people think I’m radical Supermodels think I’m handsome You might think I’m too aggressive But really I think I’m too passive ‘Til I pull out the chopper, start blastin”
It’s just a sort of inside joke about, like, the wide-eyed, drop jaw, white audience, ha ha. I love the complexity of the line though, ha ha, like the aggressive/passive thing. It’s great. I could write a whole essay on that, ha ha.
** I feel really excited about what will come. I love seeing these communities form and what results from the conversations and the intimacy offered online. I think the distance also adds ease to the communication.
HF: Yes, I’m excited too. I think something worth mentioning is that there is a tragedy in the visibility of seeing these communities form. Like, I wish it were possible for you not to see it, of course the circumstances are what they are, but you know what I’m getting at, right? Maybe I’m commiserating the fact that there aren’t resources for these communities to operate and form outside of the gaze, there is no closed loop. Maybe the goal is a type of secession, and these exhibitions, lectures, or essays operate in some way as a call-to-arms for that secession.
** I don’t see what happens within the community, I just see what results publicly. But I understand what you mean. In showing yourself you give yourself away to the oppressor. However, I think otherwise there will never be a chance. The transition is and will continue to be traumatic and people will continue to be exploited. I think it’s important to mediate between the privacy within the community and what is shown publicly. I think I’m referring to the care and dexterity that is required of the black artist.
AD: Regarding the community thing — yeah, I don’t know, it’s all confusing… like visibility is ultimately so tricky and I don’t know how to feel about. I’m tempted to problematize even the visibility of us doing a show and talk about it ‘blah, blah’ but then it also feels good and important, so I really don’t know where that leaves it. Meh, ha ha.
HF: It’s really confusing and you can problematize us doing this, I just think it is a few steps ahead of ourselves or something. I think the goal for me is for black artists — or whatever they want to call themselves in the future — to be able to comfortably problematize everything we are doing, or are about to do. I think, in a way, proving our individual efforts as a failure would be the real success. The only posterity I’m interested in is this, of course there’s ego and stuff but like whatever. We live in this moment and everyone plays their role. If we are seen as fucked up and problematic in the future, then it means a wider black consciousness is in a better position to thrive.
AD: I think that is a good goal — like having the space to work all of this out and not worry about the detriment.
** Any shout outs?
AD/HF: SHOUT OUT TO THE FAM ON AND OFFLINE THE INSPIRATION THE VERY HEART OF IT ALL
Amalia Ulman is presenting solo exhibition Labour Dance at London’s Arcadia Missa, opening September 30 and running to November 5.
The artist, whose work often looks at power structures and their associated aesthetics, confronts her own privilege through a dramatisation of her own position, and one that the press release calls “a position of criticality not accessible to all.”
The new work will expand on previous online and IRL project Privilege(2016) that featured as part of the Berlin Bienniale. The accompanying text also includes a quote by feminist theorist Kristeva, “One does not give birth in pain, one gives birth to pain”. The title is two-fold, nodding to politics as well as women in labour.
Majed Aslam and Imran Perretta are presenting their two person exhibition it wasn’t a crash, in the usual sense at London’s Arcadia Missa, opening on September 2 and running to September 24.
The event is curated by C.R.E.A.M., and is the first of a new initiative by Taylor Le Melle and Perretta, which will include a text by Le Melle, as well as an afterparty to launch the new curatorial project with DJs @cruise_control, ORETHA and Perretta himself.
The selection of new works on show is a culmination of Edwards’ time spent during a one-month studio residency at the gallery. The press release is left empty and the accompanying image is pixellated with four figures holding a flag who are rendered abstract.
Previous works have seen the artist create images and videos that mash politics, the body, sex and music together in a way that complicates the female body and how it is packaged in contemporary culture. Edwards will be showing as part of this year’s 3hd festival exhibition under the theme ‘There is nothing left but the Future?’ in Berlin as well Info Pura at London’s The Residence Gallery in June.
‘Lessons in Anti Apathy’ is a panel discussion of four politically active organizing groups held at London’s Arcadia Missa on August 4.
The panel includes Sisters Uncut, Strike! Magazine, WHEREISANAMENDIETA, and Dysphoria Collective. It aims to discuss how to create, organise and demand change. It also intends to address the current political climate that the press release describes as “a split between those taking to the streets” and “those who have spiralled into a perpetual state of apathy, into stone cold coolness” in a “total lack of engagement”.
Other general topics of the discussion include feelings of powerlessness resulting from capitalism, racism and the patriarchy. The panel will discuss ways to fight back, attempt to dismantle these oppressive structures, and find ways to hold institutions of power accountable.
The dubious title of the show suggests of Ghazi a type of practice that is outlined in an essay, specially commissioned and available at the gallery for the show’s duration by Dr Catherine Grant. A passage comes with the short press release, it reads:
“In describing the work, Babak emphasises his interest in various formalised relationships that can both allow mutual expression as well as court subjugation: that of photographer and model, teacher and student, analyst and analysand; which are then layered with the process of organising images as a form of narrative for the participants in the next formalised relationship: that between artwork/artist and viewer.”
Lifework is an ongoing archive of subjective experience made impersonal. Otherwise, the press release gives little away of how the work will be formulated and manifested in space. A Google search reveals a website subtitled ‘Lifework’ with some words scrubbed out and ‘not yet’ placed subtly in the tab.
Ghazi’s work installed in Arcadia Missa will be ready to sift through by the viewer, a comment on the way that the artist’s presentation can appear to find meaning with those who experience it upon encounter, and an apt mirror to a practice that finds its method in behaviour, interpretation, personal freedoms and limitations.
Most of the time, you don’t really know where you are in All The Things. It could be Berlin where author Sarah M Harrison is based; a park, a supermarket, something called a Simulated Employment Zone. Mostly, though, the novella, first published by London’s Arcadia Missa Publishing in February and now in its second limited run, is located in an apartment where main protagonist Tanya lives in the pantry while her AirBNB holiday-rental guests Beau and Brad smoke bongs in the kitchen. A person called Yoni talks at her from a floor down through the “shit pipe”, while Tanya’s ex Bonky’s pet rodent called Celia crawls over her “sore swollen hormonal tits”. Sometimes she’s comforted by Yoni’s stories. Sometimes they’re boring. Sometimes Tanya chats online with Eggie. Sometimes she sends emails of meaningful childhood anecdotes to someone called Cutlery Jane. Sometimes Tanya’s a lesbian. Sometimes, maybe not.
Time in All the Things is as difficult to place as location. Macro- and micro- states converge to create a kind of tension, where its era feels somehow stuck. Some parts are almost poetry –appearing in proto-form in an earlier publication of untitled poems and “excerpts from a novel” called Channels of Elimination in 2014 –others are monotonous and evocative gestures to meaningful moments of eroticism in repetition: “Hand anus hand anus hand hand finger anus hand anus hand anus anus cock anus cock anus cock anus cock hand cock hand cock cock cock cock…” and so on.
This first book by Australian-born Harrison is one consisting of fragments. A sort of snapshot of an existence that doesn’t ascribe to any notion of linearity or narrative, instead giving over to insight: “Yoni, it is not that I have anything against couples per-se, it is just that, they make me nervous, I don’t feel like I can trust them.” The existence presented here is one that’s funny yet bleak, familiar but different. It’s slightly off. The interwoven life of resigned cynic Tanya and the selfish, solipsistic people around her are presented in pieces of prose, poetry, dialogue, chats, emails, lists ordered alphabetically. Two-dimensional identities are blurred across bounds –personal, gendered, sexual, professional –and given depth despite their meanness: “She’s the sort of person who thinks that you become an artist by making art.”
Harrison’s is a universe that’s astutely constructed within a sensory space that’s both dulled by the marketing language of MacBook Pros and workplace initiatives, and heightened by its attention to the minor details of mundanity on the margins: “Yoni and Tanya dress up in ugly, awkward, slutty outfits, then smoke several weak joints before leaving the house.” Sex and bodily functions are entwined here in an at times macabre but always droll depiction of modern humanity; shrink-wrapped faux meat products, and a clump of horrifying black hair in the shower drain that threatens to strangle them all.
Trapped somewhere between a notion of the present-day and a monstrous close-view of a very near future, All The Things carries its reader through the squeamish particulars of the drudgery of daily life and abjection. The people that live it here are vulgar and sometimes cruel, and the most felt feeling throughout is hurt: “Her pain took up all the space, all the things, everything always her pain.” It meanders with little plot and a deliberately unsatisfying end on a note that surely has meaning but also doesn’t, as testament, perhaps, to its own brilliant soft nihilism that languishes in misery: “Cigarette to scab”. **
There’s little information on the theme of the exhibition itself, aside from some typically cryptic press release text, below, and a YouTube video featuring 40 seconds of noise and images piles cash of cash, screens and online purchases via bootleg branded outlets like ‘Pay_Pall’ and ‘HedEx’.
“Glam frieztgerald white suits Did calprio decide to go after chickens and pigeon eating them alive in front of ppl with friend they also trash the party by breaking all the windows They get ostracised ” W44VEY
The London-based artist, producer and musician, who became known first for his work with cult band Hype Williams has spent the last couple years carving out a career under his solo moniker and releasing an album as Babyfather in April, while also presenting exhibitions at Space, the ICA and, more recently, Cubitt Gallery.
Jesse Darling’s art is hard to describe in words. Perhaps it’s because the artist is already so generous with them, saying so much as an ever-present voice on both real and virtual planes: performative talks, poetry, social media. Darling carries one of the barest voices of London’s current art scene, and for better or worse, their persona always surrounds the work.
The Great Near, running at London’s Arcadia Missafrom March 19 to May 7 comes accompanied by an unconventional exhibition text blending ideas and fragments of socio-political processes. The artist releases a chain of interlaced thoughts which rephrase and (re-)create a life’s circumstances. The mechanism of a post-industrial society of singularity are processed and questioned. Handwritten, photocopied words that could be read as a tale of recent modern historyor the human condition —its meaning and appearance —is one of many materials processed by Darling’s rugged and playful practice. Led by a subject position that privileges artistic process over final product, Darling’s attitude becomes form, and words, and then it expands.
The Great Near is a new series of works, including three floor pieces and six wall pieces, which each actualise the artist’s ability to give form to abject bodies as a way of questioning social conventions. Painfully direct and yet light and with humour, at first the exhibition seems like a gathering in an interior yet urban, public yet private, ritualistic, religious space. Three body totem shapes are scattered across the gallery floor. They’re assembled from various materials and encased by an outer skeleton, a welded steel architectural frame. Walking around these figures, poetic moments of amalgamated materials take form.
Placed with their back toward the gallery’s entrance, a body made from welded steel, wood, chain, castor called ‘Colonel Shanks’ is supported by an aluminium crutch. It could be its tail, a mutated phallus or a third leg. The object, designed to support injured humans, becomes a disfigured organ of power, pride and stability in this figurative animal-headed character. Its foam head looks as if it was torn into shape and has two steel horns sticking out of it. Placed on one of them is a bunch of plastic cherries, a kitsch remnant of mass production taking the place of nature in Darling’s world.
‘Temps de Cerises II’ bears a blossom made out of steel branches and foam flowers. Rising above its a pink board with its flora is a flashing safety light. The sculpture carries a sign saying ‘Private’ on its back, and the bottom is supported by two trolley wheels. This static piece projects a general feeling of instability and movement that is somehow in between ecstatic and frozen, or trapped. The body itself is unset, it refuses to be determined.
Around the periphery, materials and gestures repeat. Taking a central position, the wall sculpture ‘Saint Batman’ is a superhero in metamorphosis. The icon is crucified on a steel welded cross and decorated with a halo. His body is made out of a black bin bag with a leaf pattern and plastic foliage arching around his masked face. Mass-produced nature morphs between two and three dimensions. Here, low and high culture hang out, religion and capitalism are friends, again. In this assemblage, the desire to be saved meets human limitation in the form of a black lollipop stuck to a mask covered by pink foam. Hidden in one of the gallery’s corners is ‘What’s the hole in u Batman’, a painted C-type print mounted on a post. In the flat version the character seems as if his candy is transmuted to a hand-painted hole in his beatific body. Batman is transformed into a vulnerable, pathetic, superhero-saint.
Darling’s urban living creatures are planted in the context of our own haunted history. They tell us who we are, what we are composed of, how we turned out like this and what we wished to be. Their personal and political tone takes pleasurable form, capturing transformations while letting things be what they are.
What seems to be the most personal piece in the show, ‘Cavalry’, is a group of horse heads made of clay and sugar. The horse, a symbol of power, is made in the most organic material. The herd has lost one of its members to a higher position on top of the gallery’s wall. Their escape reveals a history of wealth, domination and detachment. The rest of Darling’s steeds almost seem like a field of flowers, a crowd of individuals waiting to be picked.
The Great Near gives fragmented form to a fragmented being, ending with what has become part of the the Jesse Darling signature. When leaving the gallery, one faces Arcadia Missa’s glass door covered in whitewash paint. It’s a reference to the city’s ‘Under Construction’ spaces or small businesses in foreclosure. The viewer is left with the feeling of abject bodies under transformation, thinking about the social lives of now and constant change as a process of construction and destruction.**
Linda Stupart is opening solo exhibition A dead writer exists in words and language is a type of virus. at London’s Arcadia Missa, opening February 26 and running to March 8.
The show accompanies and expands on the London-based artist and writer’s novella Virus, also published by Arcadia Missa, and follows the Stupart’s concerns with gender, language mutation and abjection in a “virulent and embodied critique of sexism and structural violence in art and artworlds.”
The exhibition announcement runs along a text that vividly evokes bodily analogies for exclusionary discourse and dominant historical narratives: “The same words again and again wearing out their throat their blood their muscles knotting, stomach filled with black oil, fingers tapping on the seat of every lecture theatre.”