London-based artist Prem Sahib is presenting solo show, Grand Union at Birmingham’s Grand Union, opening April 21 and running June 3.
The show will see Sahib —who works with what he feels from the atmosphere of spaces where physical encounters happen and when there is potential to touch and be touched —make a series of new objects that are “in choreographed conversation with each other”.
Grand Union has commissioned writer Huw Lemmey, author of recent Chubz (2015) to produce a short story, dank and rare, which will accompany the exhibition with its title that suggests a vague kind of coming together. Descriptors ‘dank and rare’ sound like inflections of the words proximity, anonymity and touch, also used to describe Sahib’s work in the press release, making note of his interest in drawing public spaces like saunas and clubs.
“The most satisfying way to kill someone with a baseball bat isn’t two-handed, like in the films. Rather, it’s to swing the bat high with one hand, then let the gravity help you pull it down in an arc, playing against the tension of the wrist, smashing into your victim with an easy velocity. Putting your shoulder into it, like fist-pumping the floor. It’s just more satisfying. Peculiarly satisfying. It was this sort of satisfaction that Mike was alluding to when he sent me text messages, especially the early morning ones.”
So begins Huw Lemmey’s—or Spitzenprodukte’s—first book, Chubz: The Demonization of My Working Arse. In a surprising turn of events, the book takes the genre title of fanfiction, inspired by TheGuardian columnist and young Labour party member Owen Jones, and describes meticulously Chubz the protagonist’s wade-and-wank through the pool of online dating, interspersed with text-message dialogues that bring gems like “I want to pound you / pound yr hole” and “Hey. Hot. How was work? Hello. Hey. Hi. Hi. Free?” and “Green light, go, / suck my dick.”
The pocket-size “fanfiction” becomes a melting pot of leftie politics, identity branding, and sex in the digital age delivered through the first-person narrative of Andrew “Chubz” Wilson, “just another NEET on the street”. Having started work on the book during a short reprieve in Dublin during the summer of 2012, Chubz carries all the heaviness of a country on the brink of disaster, described by Lemmey as a kind of “speculative futurist thing”—an experimental city created within a language of future branding.
Like most artists of his generation, Lemmey is grappling with the shifting notion of an emotional reality lived largely in an immaterial world. In his Rhizome interview, he talks about “twin territories”—online social spaces that exist somehow separately from the physical ones, “two territories superimposed on each other, a digital augmentation of reality”. It seems fitting that Chubz itself becomes a superimposition of a different reality, the title taken from Jones’s Chavs: The Demonization of the WorkingClass. Even the character of Jones and his “blonde hair surfing over delicious blue eyes” fits across the real man like a sooty screen; Chubz’s other regular character, the popper-manic PM Nigel “Nige” Farage almost fits the bill exactly. It is a “really interesting hook,” Lemmey says in that same interview, “to talk about the disconnect between class, sex, and politics as a Question Time debate, and as lived experience in streets and shops and bedrooms.”
It also seems fitting that Jones is used, instrumentalised as Lemmey has said, to represent a certain kind of something—a charming, left-wing charming “crypto-twink”, as it were—branded for the purpose of the Lemmey’s book much as Jones branded himself in the publicity aftermath of his own. To brand is to superimpose, in a sense, and Chubz is Lemmey’s reaction to the stifling “Ken-doll sexuality” of public gay identity—a fictional narrative superimposed upon the veneer of a socially branded one, both somehow existing within and without the lived one—whatever that is. The reality Lemmey delivers is grimy and sexy, a place where “everyone wore short sleeves and short dresses and my dick filled up with the fact that the head made the city into sex”, imperfect and violent in a way that feels real, even if the main character is the not the real you know is Real.
What is real is what Lemmey’s getting at—how absurd, how delicious it is to the take two powerful white men in politics and demonize and humanize them both, remove them from their public platforms and party banners, strip them of their rehearsed slogans. Render them mere men again, Jones the object of a wanton sexual fantasy, something you know his handlers would deem ultimately lewd, and Farage the symbol of weakness and hypocrisy. Men who became not much more than political avatars rendered fictional and so more human.
Out at the boundary of Travelcard Zone 2 and Zone 3 in London’s North Acton, an industrial space-become-artist studios restored with scrap materials by sculptor Henry Krokatsis houses a sunken concrete front floor with a roller door that’s now a gallery. Nestled between food production factories and reachable through a carpark, Generation & Display is about fifteen minutes walk from the nearest overground train station and probably presents the future for the group of artists exhibiting at its inaugural show,Keep It Simple, Stupid! (K.I.S.S.), running March 20 to May 2, if they choose to stay living in the UK capital (assuming they haven’t left already). Rising rents means fewer affordable work spaces closer to the city centre, with the artists that once lived in those areas having to consider moving further out, and with that a so-called ‘scene’ of connected artists that make up the 24 peers of artist and K.I.S.S. curator Charlie Woolley.
Herein comes an artwork (almost) each from a range of artists familiar to an aqnb audience, including but not limited to Harry Burke, Matt Welch and Leslie Kulesh, Takeshi Shiomitsu, Emily Jones and Mat Jenner. An invigilator tells me the exhibition is a “highly conceptual” one, but that’s a notion that’s perhaps hard to grasp on the basis of the press release that ends by simply stating: “They are friends”. But maybe there is a link between the 24 works, which include two untitled collaborative prints by Holly White and Ben Vickers, one of which announces, “London changes. London changes everything. Everything changes”. ‘Everything’ but the bad bits it seems, as Nina Wakeford’s ‘A Poster Made By Me in 1984’ (2012) echoes the endless cycle of urban decay and ‘revitalisation’ in the cluttered text of a red and white print behind glass saying “ARE YOU A gin sippin’ fox huntin’ union bashin’ strike breakin’ thatcher adorin’ youth exploitin’ future shatterin’ rapidly disappearin’ young conservative”. Three decades later something’s disappearing, but it wouldn’t be the Thatcherite thrust towards privatisation as temporary resident Jaakko Pallasvuo‘s work comes in an email to Woolley with his ‘15 New Works’ (2010). It features ten titles with short descriptions numbered in a list that includes, “3. So No One Told You Life Was Gonna Be This Way: I asked a person to stand behind me and watch while I browsed through their Facebook profile”.
If the Facebook backlash is to be believed, a person is only capable of having 15intimate friends, but at least all of these 24 know each other and perhaps the reference to Facebook here is important. That’s not only due the networking platform’s loose notion of what ‘friend’ means, but because the K.I.S.S. artists are of a generation who probably utilise such social media platforms, in one way or another, both out of choice and necessity, especially given the peripatetic life of the precarious artist. London-born, recently New York- and now Berlin-based artist Hannah Black‘s three printed sheets host short texts of a pained and deeply emotional ‘Scripted Reality’, while East London resident and writer Huw Lemmeypresents the ‘Cumdrain’ of political resistance in a grayscale photocopy of digital space inhabited by hand-drawn riot police.
Caspar Heinemann‘s pink-hued print of tools and a junkyard totem ‘Eat Fist!’ (2015) looks across to Jesse Darling’s ‘Masc Irade’ (2014). It’s suspended almost in the centre but just off of the room, its structural steel tubing stretched out and connected to pram wheels and held precariously together by a Poundland plastic bag. It looks part mobile shopping basket for the elderly, part heavy duty hand trolley, and a lot like the flimsy budget bag is working out on a Lat Pulldown machine. That, along with the scanners and cranes of Hana Janečková‘s ‘Life Support’ (2015) video, the Argos workstation and dead roses of Sam Griffin’s ‘Stroop’ (2012) and Paul Kneale‘s interactive and untitled compact disc microwave, make K.I.S.S. seem less a show about some friends and more about artists on the edge. **
Taking the sixth issue of SALT. and its manifesto as a starting point, the Dazzle Camouflage group exhibition will run at London’s Rye Lane Studios from December 17 to January 4.
The manifesto disseminated in the feminist magazine’s sixth and latest issue has come across our radar, and we’re glad someone else is giving it the attention it deserves. The group show, which features works by Phoebe Collings-James, Ann Hirsch, Rachel de Joode and Huw Lemmey, takes SALT.’s disobedience as a methodology. The goal is not to dismantle existing power relations, just as it was not the publication’s goal to dismantle language itself, but rather to “negotiate new ways of existing within them disruptively”.
The December 17 opening brings an 8pm performance by artist Beatrice Loft Schulz, starting off the three-week exhibition on the basis of “an investment in embracing the performative potential within these hierarchies, whilst at once making known the paradoxes in doing so” through everything from reality show dating, physically imposing oneself onto objects, or “creating contingent situations from a masculine vocabulary tied up in the miasma of power relations”.
The selected artists and “creative technologists”, as the press release calls them, have been on-site for three months, working on their conceptions of infrastructures (physical, political and social), and Thursday’s opening brings the somewhat disparate artists together for three unique points of view.
Altmann’s survival fantasy-focused practice, RealFlow, will be presented on the top floor through a collaborative reading followed by live text sets from Emily Jones and Flexia, and live music sets from Nkisi, and Hitashya. Below Altmann is Kirton’s justjustgirlythingsthings, a performance of “repentance, reconciliation and restoration” following her year of critically examining the Justgirlythings community. Last in the lineup is Lemmey, whose use of technology attempts to “read the city as a space formed by political and sexual desire”.
London’s Jupiter Woods is launching some new publications this month, with Chubz coming out today (October 28) and PaperWork Magazine Issue II out on October 30.
The gallery is celebrating these two launches with proper events at their Rollins Street art space, starting off with Chubz: The Demonization of My Working Arse by Huw Lemmey (aka spitzenprodukte). The book tells the story of Andy “Chubz” Wilson, a NEET kid on the street sucking dick and jerking off into his touchscreen, and the “charming left-wing journalist and cute crypto-twink Owen” whom he meets on Grindr trying to pick up. The book launch will feature choice readings from a handful of artists, including Aimee Heinemann, Jesse Darling and Lemmey himself.
Thursday’s event brings PaperWork Magazine’s second issue, titled Act Natural, along with an evening of reading performances, including Sophie Jung and Daphne de Sonneville, as well as a host of installations and audio-visual works from select contributors.
“(ò_óˇ)” marks an appropriate end to the strain of excess that (networked) EVERY WHISPER IS A CRASH ON MY EARS embodies. Stamped on the empty last page of the anthology published by London’s Arcadia Missa and featuring contributions by 45 artists from around the (digitised) world, it tracks a six-month exhibition programme of the same name and a surplus of extra material. Press releases, installation photos, film stills, essays, artist interviews, prose, poetry, emails; these are scattered across 300+ pages of information that eschews a single-channel stream of content in favour of the more realistic overload of its stated ‘networked’ culture. Snubbing any conventional compulsion towards a straight narrative, the publication opts to map the web of collective thought from a creative cluster bound by book and fibre optics.
Sometimes it feels like there’s too much. Presenting a complexity of ideas that crash and collide with, as much as they support and strengthen each other, (networked) performs its introductory challenge to “ideology’s racket on words” in anticipating, even encouraging a total collapse of any distinction between content and form. This is, after all, a print publication littered with hyperlinks –a Soundcloud for Megan Rooney’s ‘Feeling European’ (2013), a YouTube embed for Holly White’s ‘I’m on my bike because I’m looking for you’ (2013) –that a cursor can’t click on; orginally coloured video screenshots are framed and reprinted on paper in grayscale.
“This is the end of Publishing and books are dead and boring”, announces global trade book publisher Boyd (‘B’)’s daughter Alysa (‘A’), in Bunny Rogers and Jasper Spicero’s ‘Random House’. All grown up and confronting her dad-as-Old Establishment, ‘A’ illustrates the potential for a shift in power through a text that is almost but not quite a script, in a publication that is almost, but not quite, a book.
“# – scenes where there is an alternative” says the symbol legend of ‘Random House’ as ‘A’ contradicts herself in “#The End of Small Sanctuary” sub-heading: “What you’ve got to understand is you’ve got to open your eyes to my values, I think it’s unbelievable that you’re actually listening to us”. It’s a similar sense of bewilderment that Rózsa Farkasand Harry Burke share in a conversation –also called ‘The End of Small Sanctuary’ –that actively confuses any notion of individual authorship, while revealing the irony of an internet where “interactivity doesn’t empower the user, but instead traps them in plot”.
It’s a trap of windowless metal walls and marble as ‘B’ is harangued by an attorney (‘AT’) who insists on a “more effective response to change” in a new world order where “objects are fossils from the pre-history of the attention economy”, according to Maja Cule. Because while Eleanor Ivory Weber maintains “a clean corporate office is the image of unquestionable success” in ‘A Story for Corporate Cleaners’, William Kherbek’s nameless banker in ‘The Counterparties’ bares witness to failure as he watches his “chair with its coffee stains and miserable back wheel” being carried off with a dissolving financial sector.
“The future as realistically capitalist is no longer so convincing”, announces Farkas in an extract from ‘Immanence After Networks’ for Post Media Lab, as Amalia Ulman observes the gradual disintegration of the “technical middle class” in an interview with Cadence Kinsey. Guillermo Ruiz de Loizaga instead opts to embroider “never forget class struggle” in a pillow in his poem for the ETHIRA® gallery show and iPhone app commission. It’s a symbolic gesture as inconsequential as what Ulman calls the “obvious class war” of a “rye bread with seeds” urban middle.
So go the “possible rap lyrics” of Stephen Michael McDowell’s ‘poetry ebook titled ‘tao lin’’ contribution to the Random House exhibition’s publishing-house.me online initiative. It explores the “relation between narrative and affect” as Gabby Bess’s intimate one-sided exchange asks of the art hanging in the Gagosian, “why not put our poems there?”
Why not indeed, as the effectiveness of the word as both utilitarian and artistic communicative force used in oppression as well as disruption folds back on itself as Burke and Farkas at once point out its importance in the enforcement of ideology as “non-negotiable”, while “language, when used well, can always evade its own meaning.” Because when Dora Budor says the virtuosic artist can “creatively adapt to multiple situations”, she’s suggesting that although we do “operate within, not against” (according to Elvia Wilk) a dominant online culture, it’s in hacking her father’s Comment is Free account that Huw Lemmey’s schoolgirl protagonist in ‘#nodads’ seeks to slowly destroy him –from the inside. Sure, “dad had an opinion” but in the case of Lemmey’s novella excerpt, it doesn’t count as much as the “wave of powerful butt-focussed instant sex release” that turns the mob against the London authorities in anti-capitalist, anti-patriarchal revolution.
.rtfs, spreadsheets, and spam; Facebook, Twitter and iMingle; Macbooks, PCs and iPhones. These are all formats, tools and devices, elements of Jill Magid’s “mechanical weapon” to be used against an entire generation raised within an unjust organisational structure. Except that these are the artists, the queer interlocutors who’ve come to understand these constructions better than the people who constructed them. It’s here that (networked) EVERY WHISPER IS A CRASH ON MY EARS finds hope, in refusing authority, hijacking power and using it for their own illicit ends. “(I’m an optimist, gross)”. **
The first edition of Lunch Bytes, Medium:Format, is happening at London’s ICA on March 22.
One of of four annual public discussions led by Lunch Bytes‘ European edition and examining the repercussions of an increasingly ubiquitous digital world on artistic practices, the event will focus on how artistic output has been affected by changes to social and creative media and whether the distinctions between them are even relevant.
“It’s just nice to put on poetry events,” writes Harry Burke via email, a poet, art graduate and organiser behind a title-less poetry reading at Test Centre, November 16.
As part of a month-long programme at the Stoke Newington space that ran from October 24 to November 24, Burke invited some of his favourite poets to read on the night in support of an anthology, edited by him, to launch in Spring 2014. In recognising that art and language have always been closely entwined, the project explores the multiple modes of mediation available beyond the traditional “white space” of the printed form.
As formats expand and evolve, presentation appears to have become a key focus across creatives pressing forward into a digital cultural age. Burke’s interests are no different as he aims to examine these “new poetries and new ways of presenting poetries”, across collaborations between poets and artists. Paul Kneale, Sophie Collins, Timothy Thornton, Paul Kneale, Huw Lemmey, Francesca Lisette and Diane Marie, appeared on the night, while Burke explained a bit about his thoughts on the new narratives and ways of making and expressing meaning emerging in this “shifting landscape.” **