An exhibition presented as part of the Science Festival
This exhibition, the final ever in Changing Spaces “Project Space” in Norfolk Street, responds to the City’s Science Festival theme of Data and Knowledge to suggest two things: that Data can be obtained intuitively as well as by rational calculation; but also that stratification of the bodily experience can itself be a driver of pathology, leading to the isolation of the ill person within an alienating socio-medical construction. This is not to suggest that medicine itself is at fault, but that the act of “botanizing in the field of pathology” (Michel Foucault) leads to objectification and repression of notions of the trans-subjective, subreal dimensions of what Bracha L. Ettinger has called the “matrixial borderspace”, which is a reservoir of healing potential as much as it is a repository of the traumatic history of the race.
The artists chosen were invited to respond to the theme of Isolation in the context of the lived experience of illness, corporeality and the longed-for redemption through “medicine”. Each has contributed an entirely unique and personal perspective, and collectively they have embraced several genres of expression, from painting through sculpture and video installation to performance.
Pete Jackson (Curator)
Anji has researched a body-oriented approach to painting, using her experience as a dancer to formulate an “energetics” of visual art practice, which references the phenomenological approach of commentators such as Maurice Merleau-Ponty, who emphasised the primary nature of bodily experience over secondary intellectual elaboration.
Plant Spirit Medicine is about colour and pigment, in this case derived from alcohol- and oil-based plant medicines, presented as an apothecary and juxtaposed with painting, to suggest an alternative modality of healing based on colour using a visual route of administration.
Embodiment asks paintings themselves to function as bodies, existing in polarity between the luminescence of the body-sized watercolour wall pieces, and the physicality, involving dismemberment and subsequent reorganisation, of multiple oil paintings in the hanging sculpture.
The videos chosen for this exhibition, Death Is Inevitable and A Trip to the Clinic, reflect upon our societies’ fear of death, and obsession with beauty at whatever cost.
Paul Kindersley’s work often takes the form of short films and performance pieces that are extremely humorous and highly camp in nature. Kindersley’s videos on his YouTube channel TheBritishAreCumming are supremely democratic, resulting in ten-minute bursts of comedic, intelligent and astute reflections on our contemporary society. His tableau vlogs draw from a pantheon of cultural interests, from the very high to the very low, all of which are approached with the same DIY aesthetic and slight reverence for all things British.
Philip Cornett has cultivated a strong interest and passion for queer world building, identity narratives and queer aesthetics in contemporary art. Artwork produced by this research has so far been in response to specific research surrounding homophobia, post-queer sensibility, queer futurity/utopia, and the search for a queer ideality. Theorist José Esteban Muñoz has been a key influence.
At home test (13 years of fear) is a form of documentation of the artist’s first at home HIV test provided by the Terrance Higgins Trust, acquired through their Facebook advertisement. The frantic editing of the piece lends itself to that of a frantic state of mind brought on by the artists’ fear of not knowing their HIV status. The societal fear of HIV status affected the artist from an early age, even before coming out at as gay. Not knowing who to approach or speak to about this during the late 90s and early 00s, led to a strong sense of isolation. The only information the artist felt comfortable approaching was from online sources, which at the time were not as validated as they currently are, thus intensifying their paranoia at the time. There are now many more charities and health organisations that provide clear and trustworthy information regarding HIV.
Central to the premise of Surrealism is the ‘merveilleux’ or the moment of the marvellous which as the shock and horror of beauty also describes a moment and or disorientating sensation that exalts the receiver suddenly through a crack in the world’s carapace of normality. Another term is ‘numinous’ for an object or image that has the ability to become solitary, isolated and radiantly convulsive while the rest of the world just slips away.
“My research considers the space of the trace which as an slippage of time is where the absolute fragment of the text and the space of being, swerve, link and echo in the visual as both residue and remainder that refuse to allow the past to recede or to be forgotten.
“As a strange crossing between memory, gesture and language, lingering between word and image, it is similar to the surrealist experience of automatic writing, or something that we cannot explain or put into words
“By exploring the themes of loss and impermanence my visual practice focuses upon the tensions between a fragment and a collection and it is through this perspective I tease out the interaction between the notions of isolation and density where it is played out as an Expanded performance or ‘Memory Event’ that carries the scars of the past as a visual testimony that as a moment of misrecognition should have been left concealed and unrevealed.”
My practice is grounded in both video and sculpture, and is concerned with creating metaphors for the human in a world where the monolithic codes and ciphers of cultural, economic and ecological colonisation (medicine, law, education, politics, and the military-industrial complex) create, maintain and mask a traumatic separation from core identity, and also act to prohibit the luminous experience of intuitive knowing. With Joseph Beuys, I propose that a vital function of art exists in the possibility of a healing modality, both for the individual and for our culture.
The Basement is a site specific installation containing video shot in the basement of the Norfolk Street premises, and also featuring the “Caged Earth” installation first seen in the Leper Chapel in 2012.
DEAR MISS O’CONNELL
An exhibition by Mary Finn
“And fondly I watched her
Move here and move there
And then she turned homeward
With one star awake
Like the swan in the evening
Moves over the lake”
- Padraic Colum
We all have a story to tell.
The story I want to tell with ‘Dear Miss O’Connell’ doesn’t have a particular starting point or an end point. But it does rest on a defining moment. On the 9th of June 1971, I received a letter from my employer – an acknowledgement of my resignation, tendered a few days prior, in light of my impending marriage. It was not a resignation I chose to tender. It was a resignation that was legally required of me. The letter began ‘Dear Miss O’Connell’ – the name I was soon to give up – and ended with a cheerful wish for every happiness in my married life. It was what it was. But it also shaped my journey. It left its mark on me.
I am an Irish woman who has lived through tremendous change. I was born in the late 1940s, when the world was piecing itself back together, another all-consuming war under its belt. I got married a mere two years before the marriage bar in Ireland was abolished in 1973. By that point, I was a stay-at-home mother. When my family was reared, I resumed my career. I studied again before returning to work at the start of a new millennium, managing to revel in this position for only a few years before I was ejected into retirement. But I continue to nurture my career in art. It is something that cannot be taken from me.
Today, I explore my creativity in light of all of this. My work is informed by the phases of my womanhood that came naturally, as well as those that were imposed on me. It’s built on the years of experiences I’ve accumulated, both oppressive and emancipatory. It’s about the freedom I am now enjoying, albeit years down the line. This story is my survival story. It isn’t about regret. It’s about growth. It’s about moving forward over hurdles. It’s about adapting. It’s about my personal development, but also the enduring strength and perseverance inside every woman. And it’s a reminder that the ‘prime’ of one’s life is of one’s choosing.
This is advance notice that Project Space at 9 Norfolk Street Cambridge will finally close on 31st March 2016, due to circumstances beyond our control. The premises have been let, and Cambridge can now look forward to another cafe/fast food outlet in its stead.
We would like to thank the City Council for generously allowing us to occupy these premises at a much reduced rent for the past three years. This opportunity has allowed us to host some truly ground-breaking projects and exhibitions, and, we believe, to provide the neighbourhood with something of interest.
All things must pass, however, and the current trend towards mandatory optimisation of assets in the Age of Austerity can no longer be bucked by mere artists. We have maintained our presence valiantly, often against the odds, but in the end Capital must have its due.
For Changing Spaces this is the end of an era, and we will be considering how best to move forward. Our skill sets consist in the ability to negotiate unused commercial premises in order to give cutting edge contemporary art space to live and breathe: we fully intend to carry on doing this, but it will from now on be more a “case by case” occurrence, and not, as hitherto, a rolling endeavour, which having now kept going in an unbroken chain for the past 6 and half years, we have to tell you is a high-maintenance commitment from which we feel we deserve a justified respite.
We will continue to keep you all informed. Meanwhile, our best wishes go to all our user-artists out there, and may you succeed in your ongoing efforts to maintain art in truth and awareness.
Changing Spaces Team