16 February – 30 March 2014
Open every day, 12-5pm
Click on the image to see more installation shots by Plastiques Photography
Annals of the Twenty-Ninth Century is a group exhibition of newly commissioned work by artists who worked at Wysing during 2013 as part of our artists' residency programme: Anna Barham, James Beckett, Keren Cytter, Cécile B. Evans, Michael Dean, Gustav Metzger, Rupert Norfolk, David Osbaldeston, Seb Patane, Charlotte Prodger and Florian Roithmayr.
The title of the exhibition is taken from writer Andrew Blair’s early 1874 science fiction novel of the same name; a wildly speculative intergalactic future forecast. Although the book's predictions, including the creation of ‘a hundred different zoological armies’, may now appear wide of the mark, they are a useful indicator of the mores of the time. The text stands in interesting contrast to 2013 Wysing residency artist Gustav Metzger, whose influential writings and activist activities from the 1950’s onwards have been prescient of our current concerns. Whereas Blair suggested passive spiritual change, Metzger advocates decisive responsive action.
Metzger’s text, Lift Off, which is included in the exhibition, asserts his recollection of his childhood desire for what art could be: “When I was young I wanted an art that would lift off – that would levitate gyrate, bring different – perhaps, contradictory aspects of my being. The search for – the need to encapsulate varying kinds of contradictory elements, the urgency of stopping sharp – extinct – twist and: razor-sharp endpoint. After the experience, we expand reconnect with a normality which is not the same as it was. But normality once changed, is not the same.”
Annals of the Twenty-Ninth Century takes Metzger’s concerns and influence as a starting point from which to bring work by the other 2013 artists-in-residence together. The eleven artists included in the exhibition, whose work emerges from a wide range of working practices and methods, each share in common the time they spent at Wysing in residency as a point of transition. These new works exhibited allow reflection on where their work has come from and together allow for speculation on where the work may go next.
Whilst in residency, Seb Patane collaborated most closely with Gustav Metzger, working on a new sound piece. Patane invited Metzger to recite a passage from The Political Theatre (1929) by experimental German theatre director Erwin Piscator which he used to create a new sound piece. The text recounts a description Piscator wrote of his ill-fitting army uniform just before going to war. The correlation between Metzger’s own experiences as a German Jew who came to London as a child refugee in 1939, and Piscator’s later anti-military stance, inspired Patane to create this extraordinarily affecting work.
Michael Dean used the time and space at Wysing to focus on writing, something fundamental to the way he makes artwork. As a result of his residency, Dean began work on a graphic novel dealing with the confusion of intimacy, communication and physicality. His initial graphite drawing for one of the first pages, an ambiguous narrative formed from amalgam of cartoon tongues, will be on display. Housed in an MDF domestic tableau, the viewer has to lift and hold a concrete tongue sculpture to view the work.
Cécile B. Evans has produced a new work in association with Loughborough University's Radar arts programme. The work will be presented in two parts, the first of which is a series of 3 sculptures developed with Cay Green, PhD Candidate in the School of Design. The pieces are mundane personal effects- a comb, a screwdriver, and a pair of scissors- modes of technology with relative immunity to updates and upgrades. The files produced from the design collaboration will be 3D printed and presented in front of location studies that will be used in the subsequent part of the work, a video featuring the object. The project is an inquiry of the emotional investment of devices and the transient nature of spirit.
During her residency at Wysing, Anna Barham worked on the ambitious HD video Double Screen (not quite tonight jellylike), exploring the relationships between spoken and written language; subject and system; body and machine. The voiceover was constructed from multiple versions of a text which Barham processed through rudimentary speech recognition and synthesis software and subjected to repeated edits and reprocessing. Score presents that text here as a series of prints on holographic paper. Made on the same machine that is the main protagonist of the video, the prints point to the many different feedback loops used as methods of production within Barham's work.
The rhythmic repetition of images and text is typical for Keren Cytter's work, and in her new work Corrections she makes exceptional use of camera work and editing. In a heavily structured and tangled plot, two men plan their parents' murder under the watchful eye of witnesses. The unending deconstruction forces contemplation of narrative structure.
James Beckett’s explorations of minor histories often bring together incongruous research areas in ways that make their relationships appear entirely logical. For this new commission Beckett has taken the starting points of Russian Suprematism and the role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons. Using the rules of production from the cult game rather than other more artistically accepted modes of chance such as the I Ching, Beckett shows the steps required to make an artwork, whilst, in it’s museological display, performs a satirical take of Modernist art production.
Rupert Norfolk’s often sculptural works play with the viewer’s expectations and assumptions of how a work operates in space. Whilst on residency at Wysing, Norfolk produced his first moving image work, Balls. Shot in Wysing’s gallery space, the video consists of a mesmerising infinite loop of five simultaneously bouncing basketballs dropping in and out of sync with each other. Made through digital editing, it depicts a convincing display of a clearly impossible occurrence through its precise composition and pace.
David Osbaldeston’s The Measure of Some Things is the first in a series of what the artist refers to as an image recognition device. As if the product of an amateur philosopher, the work appears as both a Cartesian diagram and a table made from seemingly ad-hoc material parts, like a quasi-scientific still-life. Co-ordinated for their metaphorical potential, these elements comically allude to the status of the art object as something ultimately ‘speculative, unexplainable, or immeasurable,’ where language breaks down.
Distance and desire are key tropes in the physical display of Charlotte Prodger's work. Recent works fetishistically reference the visual vocabulary of retail design and the slick functionality of high-end sportswear. Her work Prospex is constructed of a found image of a man’s wrist wearing a Seiko divers' watch encased between thick layers of Perspex with overlapping circular holes cut through it. The gesture of punching through to the image creates a restricted opening into a terrain that is at once familiar and oblique.
Florian Roithmayr’s new work Earplugs, takes a recurring motif in his work as the subject of two printed banners set in concrete bases. The two banners display images of earplugs held in both left and right hands with a clinical, instructional aesthetic. They display a moment of calm irresolution, the thought of use rather than silence, the form that they now take and the potential space they may inhabit.
To coincide with the opening of the exhibition Nicolas Deshayes has been commissioned to produce a new donation box for Wysing Arts Centre which will feature permanently in Wysing’s reception area. Deshayes works with glossy, synthetic materials, such as anodised aluminium and vacuum-formed plastic, to create skins, bulges and organic forms. For this commission Deshayes has created a visceral work akin to a gastrointestinal tract, into which visitors can insert their donations.
A new publication produced with An Endless Supply accompanies the exhibition. The publication collates responses to the question "Where do you see yourself in twenty-five years?" from sixty-seven artists, writers, academics and contributors to Wysing’s 2013 programme.
Annals of the Twenty-Ninth Century launches a significant year for Wysing, as we mark our 25th birthday. Throughout 2014 our programme will aim to look at the potential of the future through what we know of the past; realised through ongoing residencies, artistic retreats, events, exhibitions and an innovative Futurecamp during the summer of 2014.
Annals of the Twenty-Ninth Century is curated by Gareth Bell-Jones and gives an insight not only into the ambitious work produced at Wysing and where this may lead, but also to the research, discussion and exchange of ideas that take place at our rural site outside Cambridge.
We are grateful to the Henry Moore Foundation for their generous support of Annals of the Twenty Ninth Century alongside funding from Paul Hamlyn Foundation and Arts Council England.