4 September — 1 November 2009

'Generosity is the new political' explored the complex and ambiguous concept of generosity. Rooted within a system that merits symbolic value over market worth, acts of generosity contradict the accepted notion of production and exchange.

Generosity is the new political

The exhibition featured the work of eight international artists. Five of the works were new commissions, created during research periods at Wysing Arts Centre during 2009. The exhibition demonstrated both the positive and caring aspects of generosity but at the same time, revealed its ambiguity.

Revolution Road: Rename the Streets! 2009
Works by the art collective Freee take sides, speak their mind and divide opinion. In this new work, the artists and a group of witnesses from Wysing spent a day in Cambridge performing a ceremony to rename some of the city’s favourite streets after leading radical thinkers of the 18th century. Inspired by E.P. Thompson’s pivotal work The Making of the English Working Class, Freee invited us to recognise how these radical thinkers of the working classes were not victims of history but people passionate about progress. The work also had a presence at Zoo Art Enterprises, London, 16-19 October.


Tellervo and Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen
I Love My Job, 2008
This darkly humorous video work told the story of four nightmarish events that take place at an office, a flat, a restaurant kitchen and a factory. The artists invited workers from Gothenburg, Sweden, to tell them the darkest moments of their work life. The artists then re-created the events with a team of actors, introducing elements of fiction. In the four scenes the artists gave the story tellers a chance to express their work situation, emotional stress and worries via the cinema screen. However, each story also depicts the possibility for thinking about survival strategies and revenge imagined by the workers.

Christodoulos Panayiotou
Tomorrow is Today, 2009
Christodoulos Panayiotou's new work Tomorrow is Today is a conversation between the artist and his former theatre professor Jean Verdeil on the pedagogic legacy of socially engaged theatre with the practices of contemporary socially engaged art. Two framed works referred to this in the gallery: a poster announced the event together with a photographic print; a performance entitled The end by Panayiotou realised in the baroque theatre Markgräfliches Opernhaus in Bayreuth in Germany. The dialogue in Tomorrow is Today was re-enacted as a conversation, directed by Jonathan Young from Shams Theatre, in a special public event on the Sunday 1 November at 5pm at Wysing.


Luca Frei
Untitled (…the Sun is the tongue, the Shadow is the language) 2009
Frei’s approach to his practice is exploratory and questioning. In considering this new commission, Frei determined to explore the meaning of generosity throughout the making of the work. He focused on the role of time within generosity, developing a series of ceramic sculptures with supervising support from Wysing studio artist and ceramicist Bob Race. These playful pieces resembled clock faces but on a deeper level represent the generous exchange of time and experience, deeply crafted into the making of the work.

Celine Condorelli
Life always escapes, 2009
A common designates land on which one has the right “to take or use some portion of that which another man’s soil naturally produces,” which includes collecting firewood or keeping one’s animals for grazing, and is as such one of the only alternative property models left in the UK. Using Rights of Common, Condorelli created a ‘common room’ out of modest wooden waste materials, which housed a collection of postcards, photographs and documents from her research into the Commons. The installation included a wood-buring stove that heated the gallery during the autumn by burning wood gathered from local Commons.

Kateřina Šedá
It doesn’t matter, 2005-7
The drawings and video installation in the gallery were the result of a series of exercises aimed at encouraging the artist’s recently widowed grandmother, Jana, to do something other than watch television. Šedá persuaded her grandmother, who was suffering from depression, to try to recollect every item sold in the hardware shop she managed for 33 years and then draw them. During the film it becomes clear that this is far from a therapeutic exercise or proof of the restorative power of art. The work questions at a deep and complex level the act of giving and caring, with poignant honesty.

Libia Castro and Ólafur Ólafsson
The Caregivers, 2008
This video work portrayed two migrant care-workers from the Ukraine and Romania, and their elderly clients in Rovereto in Italy. The work discussed the care–workers’ daily working lives and looks at the rapidly growing phenomenon of Ukrainian women migrating to Italy to work as care-givers. The work included a specially commissioned musical score, based on a piece of journalistic text about the phenomenon. The Caregivers was commissioned for Manifesta 7, the European art biennial.

Bik Van Der Pol
Untitled (Gold), 2009
The work of Bik Van der Pol explores the potential of art to improve situations, add what is missing or highlight what’s hidden. The result of their research into the notion of generosity was Untitled (Gold), a work which looks at the perceived opposite of generosity – greed. The motto depicted in the work is an extract from a poem by the British poet Thomas Hood, which discusses how gold is a material that continuously tests both our generosity and our greed. Untitled (Gold) emerged from the landscape of Wysing from mid September onwards.


The Guardian, Skye Sherwin, preview

Frieze Magazine, Andrew Hunt, review

AN Magazine, Olga Smith, review

e-flux journal - Celine Condorelli