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Open daily, 12noon-5pm, until 5 June.

The Fifth Artist features new work by Olivier Castel, Jesse Darling, Crabtree & Evans and Alice Theobald who were in-residence together at Wysing in the autumn of 2014, working within the theme of The Future.

The Fifth Artist

In Jacques Derrida’s Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning & the New International (1993), the word hauntology first appeared. The title of the book references Marx and Friedrich Engels' statement at the beginning of The Communist Manifesto that a "specter (is) haunting Europe.” Specters of Marx is a damning criticism of the liberal left’s failure to generate the conditions for an equitable and fair society; and so the specter of ideology continues to haunt, whilst the economic and social conditions of many continue to worsen.

A set of artists’ residencies that were themed The Future, could not fail to be haunted by the current state of world politics. Although not directly addressed by the artists, an unidentified presence lurked at the edges of this tightly knit group; strangers until situated together in rural Cambridgeshire for six weeks. Let’s call this presence The Fifth Artist.

Throughout their period in-residence the artists lived together in Wysing’s farmhouse during the dark months and shortened days of November and December 2014. During this intense period, away from the city and its routine of toil and commerce, they worked independently in studios, coming together for evening meals and occasional trips out. 

A ghost story, recounted early in their residency, created a part-believed, part-ridiculed ripple throughout conversations, continuing even into post-residency as the story’s mythology continued to evolve.

The slippage between fiction and reality becomes intensified during times like this; an unusual situation to be located within, sharing a home and thoughts with a group strangers brought together by a person, or persons, also unknown to them. This heightened intensity became part of the residency day-to-day; moving across the unlit site, in and out of artificial light and intense darkness, from studio to house, occasional visits to the city and back again. Perhaps it is unsurprising that the phantom of The Fifth Artist emerged as a symbol of an unknown presence, and also perhaps a liminal space; a threshold.

The Fifth Artist is the title of this exhibition but the act of naming, giving it material form, also makes it a contributor to the exhibition. The Fifth Artist is the unknown and the unknowable, the shadows without, the oppressiveness of an uncertain future and also perhaps an enquiry into the condition of being human.

 

Olivier Castel's work is situated at both the periphery and the centre of the gallery. A hinged luminous door, hollow at its centre, exists as both an object and a void that the visitor steps through. Alternatively by turning the door's handle and pushing it open, the visitor holds the exhibition in the palm of their hand, sweeping the enclosed lights throughout the space. Whilst the work allows access to the space, and illumination for it, it also dazzles as the visitor leaves, high-lighting the exhibition’s ephemeral and artificial reality.

Julia Crabtree and William Evans have begun developing the framework for a pseudo-sci–fi film based around a misunderstanding of the function of the C.A.T.S. (Cosmic Anisotropy Telescope); part of the University of Cambridge's Mullard Radio Telescope Observatory. Considering the C.A.T.S. as a means of communication, as opposed to observation, the architecture of the site becomes a stage. The artists have focused on object and image making; exploring the relationship between theatre and sculpture and the performative potential of materials.

Jesse Darling presents new sculptures made from welded steel; the European technology of war that facilitated colonialism and created the foundations for the built environment. These new pieces examine the archetypes and mythologies of modernity through a queer and animist lens.

Today left for the sake of coming back tomorrow (or) impossible loves; a sculptural video installation by Alice Theobald is made up of dramatic verses and a composed soundtrack, shown alongside a wall-based text work. Described by Theobald as existing in ‘non-time’, the works use nuanced wordplay and are absurdist in content. Speaking of love, loss, uncertainty, optimism and dejection, there is a sense of faux sentimentality that permeates the scene and which strikes a balance between irony, desolation, cliché and empathy all imparted with tragicomic pathos. The song Being Bored is arranged and performed by Phoebe Blatton and Alice Theobald.

The Fifth Artist is supported by Arts Council England and Henry Moore Foundation.