Kiss My Genders: A conversation

In this roundtable discussion, three of the artists involved in Kiss My Genders – Ajamu, Travis Alabanza and Victoria Sin – discuss play, intergenerational conversations and what community means to them with guest curator Vincent Honoré.

 

Vincent Honoré: So I guess we should start by talking about how each of you position yourselves within Kiss My Genders.

Victoria Sin: It’s really important to have these views and stories, narratives and representations, coming from the queer artists themselves, rather than having other people speak about our identities.

Ajamu: I like the title – Kiss My Genders; it’s about kissing my ass, basically! [Laughter] Straight away there is a certain energy, or an attitude. There is always a danger with talking about any kind of identity – even queer identity. I would maybe move ‘queer’ from an identity to a politics, as in, what is a queer ‘doing’? Then it becomes more messy, more murky, harder to articulate, because, actually, we inhabit many internal worlds simultaneously. We too often try to bring [that reality] back down to ‘identity’ to hold it, to articulate it. The exhibition operates in a different register – as an attitude or an energy, or something else.

Travis Alabanza: I’m so glad you started with the title, because that’s why I didn’t ignore the request to be involved in this. We just came out of a year of institutions doing stuff about gender – I was feeling fatigued! I was just so done with these stale conversations about gender; they would bring in these really exciting artists, but the institution would work its magic to make their work seem more mundane or serious about gender than I know those artists intended.

And what I love about Kiss My Genders is what you were saying – that same playfulness in the title, for me, invites the artists, the audience and the visitors to have that same playfulness too. I think that’s what’s been left out over these last two years – the playfulness that I and so many other trans, queer, gender non-binary artists have. The reason this feels important is that it’s an exciting way to say ‘Look, this thing is real – this exists in nightclubs, this exists on our record players, this exists when we’re dancing around.’

 

Martine Gutierrez, Demons, Tlazoteotl 'Eater of Filth,' p92 from Indigenous Woman, 2018 © Martine Gutierrez. Courtesy of the artist and RYAN LEE Gallery, New York

 

Ajamu: That playfulness or that mischievousness is no less political; although it is not seen as political, because people assume it’s not doing that sociocultural work.

Travis Alabanza: It’s the most political thing I think we can do sometimes. People always see us and our conversations – especially with trans folk – in direct relation to violence. So when me and my friends play, I’m, like, ‘This is incredible, because you’re having to learn about us through us being joyous, being playful, pretending.’

Victoria Sin: One of my main things about drag is that it’s inherently playful. There’s always comedy, it’s always going to be a bit silly. You’re asking yourself to step outside of yourself and do something that you would not do in your day today. It’s like a tool that can be used to gain a better idea of, actually, how serious gender usually is, and that’s where the power is: making fun of gender.

I also think about this in relation to science fiction and fantasy in queerness, because these are places that you can say, ‘Actually, here’s a completely new world that is separate to the societal context that we’re in, and I’m gonna change these things, I’m gonna play with it.’ The whole point is that queerness is playful and it can change, and probably will, because who’s the same thing for the rest of their lives?
 

One of my main things about drag is that it’s inherently playful. There’s always comedy, it’s always going to be a bit silly ... It’s like a tool that can be used to gain a better idea of, actually, how serious gender usually is, and that’s where the power is: making fun of gender.
Victoria Sin

Ajamu: It makes me think about queer and punk. They’re both doing something very specific. They are mischievous, they are deviant. But now the word ‘queer’ has been co-opted for all forms of difference, right? I’m not sure that all forms of difference can be queer. That’s why I think I’m pushing back against ‘queer’ as an identity position, but not necessarily ‘queer’ as an attitude or an energy. I would actually like to reclaim the deviant queer, the dirty queer.

 

Luciano Castelli, Goldene Schallplatte 3, 1974 © Luciano Castelli. Courtesy the artist

 

Vincent Honoré: The exhibition focuses on recent works but also includes works from the late 1960s and early 1970s. The radical social changes initiated in the 1960s, with the rise of feminism, gay rights and unconventional notions of masculinity, as expressed in glam rock, disco or punk – and seen in the exhibition in the works by Luciano Castelli and Jimmy DeSana – paved the way for changes in how gender was socially perceived and is now considered. How do you connect with previous generations? Who are your ‘transcestors’?

Ajamu: The one artist I keep coming back to, decade after decade, is Pierre Molinier. There was an exhibition of his work at Cabinet Gallery in Brixton in 1993. I was totally bowled over by it, partly because it was confusing – I couldn’t work out where Pierre was in the image, and there are times his body has morphed. It not only played around with gender, it explored fetishism, voyeurism and spectatorship.

Victoria Sin: It’s important to have intergenerational conversations, because if you don’t, then you just start trying to reinvent the wheel every time – and why start all over again when you can learn from people before you?

 

Peter Hujar, Ethyl Eichelberger as Nefertiti (III), 1979 © 1987 The Peter Hujar Archive LLC. Courtesy The Peter Hujar Archive LCC; Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Ajamu: What are the things that you steal from another generation, and what then do you invent? What are the tensions?

Victoria Sin: I remember realising that I was an artist who was into gender, who was into science fiction, who was into sex and pornography. I found the work of Shu Lea Cheang, a Taiwanese artist. She made a queer, sci-fi porno called I.K.U. (2000). Finding her work for me was, like, ‘Oh my god, I’m not alone in this – here is another person who’s come before me that my work can be in dialogue with.’ I remember also thinking, ‘who are the drag queens that I can look to in the past?’ Then I looked back at Cantonese opera. This was a space where men would play women, women would play men; I found out that these two iconic actors called Yam Kim-fai and Bak Sheut-Sin were actually two actresses who played romantic lead roles opposite one another in 1960s films, and who maintained a ‘close’ friendship for over 40 years. These narratives, they do exist, and, really weirdly, sometimes they exist in very heteronormative contexts.

Travis Alabanza: I love Jo Clifford – I think she’s one of the best playwrights ever. I was looking for trans people that are grotesque; I hope she doesn’t mind me saying this but, among many other things, her work is sometimes gross. I was looking for a way that trans people can make performance that doesn’t feel like it needs to be pretty and attractive, and can be mean and horrible. Jo Clifford’s work was a real invitation to make the audience angry and upset, but it would be about their pain rather than hers.

 

Kiss My Genders
Jenkin van Zyl, Looners (2019). Installation view of Kiss My Genders at Hayward Gallery, 2019. Photo: Thierry Bal

 

Ajamu: For me it wasn’t just artists, but also people like Miss Gold walking around Brixton in the late 1980s – people who were never trans non-binary, but presented another kind of gender: Jamaican queens who were just walking around in Brixton, Chapeltown, Toxteth, just taking up space. Because I couldn’t work them out, I found them frightening. They didn’t apologise for presenting themselves in ways that would seem unacceptable in black culture, and gay culture too. It’s that confidence to be different – that energy – that I kind of took with me as part of my own politics. So now I say to myself, ‘I am now one of those queens that scares people’ [laughter].

Victoria Sin: A similar experience brought me to drag. Sneaking into gay bars when I was 17 in Toronto and seeing my first drag shows, seeing these queens who were using femininity – a queer femininity, a femininity that most people would say should not exist, or is existing in a way that’s very improper – but using it to take up space and command a room; I was absolutely infatuated. I wanted to be like that, and use femininity in a way that is not intended to be consumable from the viewpoint of a heteronormative, cisgender gaze.
 

It’s important to have intergenerational conversations, because if you don’t, then you just start trying to reinvent the wheel every time – and why start all over again when you can learn from people before you?
Victoria Sin

 

Vincent Honoré: This makes me think of Peter Hujar’s comment: ‘My work comes out of my life. The people I photograph are not freaks or curiosities to me. I like people who dare.’ It is about daring, as well as being part of a community. What is your relationship to your community, and how does it feed your art?

Victoria Sin: I wouldn’t be able to exist in any kind of healthy way without a community; I definitely would not be able to make the work that I’m making.

Travis Alabanza: I live with three other black, gender-nonconforming people, and my close circle of friends are all black, won’t-be-defined fags, freaks, whatever you want to call us – or we call ourselves freaks. That, for me, powers my work. But sometimes it’s hard to grasp what we mean by community in a physical form. Maybe four years ago, when I was first starting to make work in a ‘community’, I found it useful; then, recently, I’ve actually found it not so useful to see myself so directly linked to this thing that I can’t quite grasp. At the moment, my work is coming out of quite a selfish need. If that work then helps someone else or is useful in a community, it’s fine. Maybe that’s the sense of community that I enjoy: just like really supportive aunties, cheering each other on.

 


 

Read the full discussion in the Kiss My Genders exhibition catalogue, which also features original essays by Amrou Al-Kadhi, Paul Clinton, Charlie Fox, Jack Halbestam, Manuel Segade and Susan Stryker; an excerpt from Renate Lorenz’s influential Queer Art: A Freak Theory; and poetry by Travis Alabanza, Jay Bernard, Nat Raha and Tarek Lakhrissi.

buy the catalogue



Kiss My Genders is at Hayward Gallery from 12 June – 8 September 2019. Hayward Gallery is open 11am – 7pm every day, except Tuesdays when the gallery is closed, with late night opening on Thursdays until 9pm.

book tickets  further information

 

Five things to know about Kiss My Genders

We’ve collated five things you need to know about Hayward Gallery’s new summer exhibition Kiss My Genders.

1. This group exhibition explores and celebrates gender identity and gender fluidity

Kiss My Genders brings together over 100 artworks by more than 30 artists from all over the world, all of whom approach gender not as a fixed set of categories, but rather as something to be challenged, reconsidered and in some cases rejected altogether. Many but not all of the artists in this exhibition identify as gender non-binary and make use of the gender-neutral pronoun, they.

 

Catherine Opie, Pig Pen, 1993 © Catherine Opie. Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles and Thomas Dane Gallery, London

 

2. Although the tone and approach of the works in this exhibition is often light, the questions they raise and the subjects they address are not

As well as addressing gender identity, many of the artworks in Kiss My Genders also touch on or explore subjects that include national and cultural identity, ethnicity and religious beliefs. Kent Monkman’s large-scale paintings feature his alter ego Miss Chief Eagle Testickle, a character invented as a way to ‘reverse the colonial gaze’; artist and AIDS activist Hunter Reynolds uses art as a tool to process trauma as well as transform it in his installation The Memorial Dress (1993); while Amrou Al-Kadhi explores the experience of being in drag as a person of Muslim heritage in their portrait Glamrou (2016) – the result of a collaboration with photographer Holly Falconer.

 

Installation view of Kiss My Genders, Hayward Gallery 2019. Photo: Thierry Bal

 

3. The exhibition includes artworks that range from ambitious video installations to small-scale drawings and intimate photographic prints

In approach as well as subject matter Kiss My Genders is characterised by multiplicity. While some of the artists in this exhibition – including Peter Hujar, Catherine Opie and Del LaGrace Volcano – make use of and subvert the tradition of photographic portraiture, others present hybrid artworks that defy categorisation, or make use of unconventional materials such as pharmaceutical testosterone, estrogen and melanin.

 

Peter Hujar, John Heys with Orange Breasts, 1983 © 1987 The Peter Hujar Archive LLC. Courtesy The Peter Hujar Archive LCC; Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

4. It also includes new commissions and site-specific works

Some of the artworks in Kiss My Genders have been developed specifically for this exhibition. Among them are Jenkin van Zyl’s new video installation, Looners (2019); At Her Dream’s Edge (2019) by Chitra Ganesh, a site-specific installation that explores femininity, sexuality and power and features transgressive bodies inspired by mythology and science fiction; and Victoria Sin’s A View from Elsewhere, Act 1, She Postures in Context (2019), a ‘multimedia fantasy’ exploring ‘desire, shame and the material queer body.’


 

Kiss My Genders
Installation view of Jenkin van Zyl, Looners (2019), in Kiss My Genders, Hayward Gallery

 

5. It doesn’t just take place inside Hayward Gallery – there are artworks outside the building, too

For Kiss My Genders, the poster for drag queen Joan Jett Blakk’s 1992-presidential campaign has been fly-posted across one of the exterior walls; Athi-Patra Ruga has transformed the windows of Queen Elizabeth Hall with a vinyl artwork that resembles stained glass; Ad Minoliti’s colourful, abstract designs can be seen on bollards, flags, windsocks across the Southbank Centre site as part of her site-wide installation Playcentre (2019); and a poem by artist and writer Tarek Lakhrissi – ‘Glory’ – adorns the steps of Southbank Centre’s Mandela Walkway.

 



Kiss My Genders is at Hayward Gallery from 12 June – 8 September 2019. Hayward Gallery is open 11am – 7pm every day, except Tuesdays when the gallery is closed, with late night opening on Thursdays until 9pm.

book tickets  further information

 

Header image: Installation view of Kiss My Genders, Hayward Gallery, courtesy of Hayward Gallery 2019. Photo: Thierry Bal

Interview with artist Kate Cooper

On the occasion of her solo exhibition in Hayward Gallery’s HENI Project Space, Kate Cooper discusses computer-generated imagery, viruses and forms of resistance with Assistant Curator Sophie Oxenbridge.

Your exhibition in HENI Project Space includes a number of new and recent videos that each feature a computer-generated female character. Why have you chosen to work with the same figure for so long?

There are actually a few different characters in these works, but they all function as the generic face of technological consumer capitalism. Initially, I was interested in the way that these figures are used to sell ideas or products or test out technology. I wanted to find a way to remove them from their usual context and repurpose them as material to work with. Later, I became more concerned with the way that they might refuse, disrupt or hijack the things that they are supposed to be colluding with – refusing the labour that is involved in representation, for example. This became the starting point for the work. 

 

Why have you chosen to focus on the female body and experience?

As well as what is at stake in the representation of the female body, I am interested in the way that female experience relates to capital and labour. Recently, we have witnessed a huge growth in the discourse about the way that female bodies are represented, circulated and disseminated – whether that’s in digital technology, advertising, pornography or through personas like Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri. For me, this also links to the work of Sadie Plant, a writer and philosopher who has attributed the invention of the computer to the traditionally feminine work of weaving. 

Kate Cooper, We Need Sanctuary, 2016. Image courtesy of the artist.
Image courtesy of the artist

Your characters come in a basic framework that you import into animation software in order to manipulate. Sometimes these figures maintain their ‘perfect’ exteriors. At other times, they bruise, bleed, decay or move between exaggerated stereotypes of gendered bodies. How does the idea of perfection inform your practice?

I think there is a kind of banality in perfection. It’s also related to the way that we create and exploit value within our capitalist system. As an artist, I’m interested in the way that we can co-opt or sabotage these systems of ‘perfect’, ideal or highly desirable images. I often think about my work in terms of designer ‘knock-offs’ – fake goods that are made to imitate a branded item. These knock-off goods are at once a celebration of the ‘original’ and a way of changing or debasing the intended meaning of the product. 

The images in my work often function as a conceptual stand-in for forms of unrecognised labour frequently carried out by women, for example care work or housework. What does it mean to refuse to perform this kind of labour? And more importantly, what happens when your body is sick and physically unable to perform? The characters in these videos are engaged in a kind of conflict with themselves that has to do with their status as images. There’s something inherently ridiculous and surreal about making figures that are always meant to be performing become tired or ill and reject the things they have been created to do. In these works, I wanted to connect the idea of sickness with a form of refusal.

 

By re-modelling and manipulating your computer-generated characters, are you challenging your viewer’s ability to empathise with them?

The way that we respond to images has fundamentally shifted due to the fractured nature of technology and new distribution systems, and I think that the idea of images creating an empathetic response is problematic because of this. Empathy is particularly tricky in relation to these images because of the way that they are constantly moving back and forth between subject and object. It’s also related to authenticity, and generally I’m much more interested in engaging with and creating works from materials that are obviously inauthentic. 

In my work, I attempt to take an existing system or infrastructure and shift the focus in such a way that allows us to think about what is really going on. For me, the more important questions that these works raise are ‘what are the tools of image making now, and what do we want them to do?’. We don’t often think about how images such as the ones that appear in my work are made or circulated. To me, this gap in our knowledge and understanding is also something that relates to unseen or unrecognised forms of labour. 

Image courtesy of the artist

As indicated in their titles, for instance Symptom Machine or Infection Drivers, a number of your recent works are inspired by the way a virus acts in a human body. 

The relationship between disease and image making has a long history, particularly in the work of queer artists. I was thinking about the way that images themselves function like viruses, constantly spreading and multiplying. During my research, I looked at the way that some viruses and diseases behave, specifically the way that certain types of cancer can occupy hidden spaces within the body – so-called ‘sanctuary sites’ – where they can grow without being detected. This seemed to me to be the most dangerous and sophisticated form of structural behaviour, and I became increasingly interested in what this suggested as a form of resistance. I’m also fascinated by the idea that images might act autonomously.

 

Finally, could you talk about the way that sound and image work together in this exhibition?

I think about these videos as performances, and for this exhibition I wanted to find a way to make the experience of watching them intensely physical. Sound is an important part of this. For three of the videos (Infection Drivers, Sensory Primer and Symptom Machine) I collaborated with Soraya Lutangu (aka Bonaventure) – a producer who uses samples in her work in a similar way to the way that I use found imagery. Soraya’s soundtracks consist of bodily sounds mixed with samples, mixed with elements that she composes. For me, these soundtracks bring with them questions about the history and nature of affect in moving image, as well as forms of non-verbal communication. 

 


 

Kate Cooper: Symptom Machine is at HENI Project Space, Hayward Gallery, 15 May – 23 June 2019.

find out more

 

The Museum of Emotion at Hayward Gallery

Kader Attia: The Museum of Emotion | Hayward Gallery

Kader Attia’s first UK survey exhibition, The Museum of Emotion, traces several strands of the artist’s work from the past two decades.

In this exhibition at Hayward Gallery, Attia transforms detailed research into compelling works of art, and at the same time probes the ways in which the museum itself might be transformed into a forum for emotional response, capable of eliciting, exploring and even harnessing strongly held feelings of anger, sorrow, joy and grief.

Get a first look at some of the remarkable works which make up this exhibition in our walk-through video.

 

I’m critiquing those social sciences that claim to control and understand the world better than other ways of thinking, just by classifying it.
Kader Attia on The Museum of Emotion

Kader Attia: The Museum of Emotion is at Hayward Gallery from 13 February until 6 May 2019

Hayward Gallery is open 11am – 7pm every day, except Tuesdays when the gallery is closed, with late night opening on Thursdays until 9pm.

book tickets   find out more

 

 

Five things to know about Kader Attia

The Museum of Emotion is Kader Attia’s first survey exhibition in the UK. Find out more about Attia’s poetic and politically engaged work below. 

He describes himself as an activist as well as an artist

Over the past twenty years, Kader Attia has made sculptures, installations and video works that engage with urgent political issues, including police violence, the treatment of immigrant populations and the legacies of colonialism. ‘In terms of the ethical aspect of art, I have to say that we’re living in a crucial time. Visually, verbally, everything has to be used’.

 

He’s fascinated by the concept of repair

For Attia, repair is both a physical and a symbolic act. The Museum of Emotion features objects that have been ‘repaired’ by the artist using techniques and materials from non-Western cultures, as well as videos and large-scale installations that explore different attitudes towards physical and psychological injury. His installation The Repair from Occident to Extra-Occidental Cultures (2012) brings together hundreds of objects, among them repaired African masks and archival photographs of wounded First World War soldiers. 

 

His ambitious artworks often involve detailed research

Some of Attia’s artworks, including The Repair from Occident to Extra-Occidental Cultures (2012) and his video Reflecting Memory (2016), involve detailed research. This research takes different forms, but includes conversations with a wide range of individuals, from medical professionals to musicians and traditional healers. ‘When I make my videos, I go out and meet with all kinds of people’, Attia has said. ‘I’m a storyteller, and a storyteller who tells the story of the others’. 

 

Installation view of Shifting Borders, Kader Attia: The Museum of Emotion at Hayward Gallery. Copyright the artist, courtesy Hayward Gallery 2019. Photo: Linda Nylind

 

He wants to start conversations, and provoke political debate

Conversation and debate are hugely important to Attia. Speaking of his work, he has said ‘What interests me is to produce things using very simple forms, so as to lead people in the direction of genuine exchanges of views – a real, fundamental dialogue’. In 2016, the artist set up La Colonie, a space for politically engaged debate in a multicultural neighbourhood in central Paris. Over the past three years, La Colonie has hosted discussions on topics including re-appropriation and colonial architecture, and has featured a wide range of speakers including the philosopher Bruno Latour. 

 

He wants us to think about how powerful emotions – among them joy, anger or sorrow – might bring about positive social change 

In this exhibition, Attia explores the complicated role that emotion plays in all areas of our lives. In works such as The Field of Emotion (2018–19), he explores the ways in which dictators and demagogues stir up and exploit strong emotions, and in The Museum of Emotion as a whole asks us to consider how and whether powerful emotions might heal rather than create conflict, and what role the museum might play in that process. 

 


 

Kader Attia: The Museum of Emotion was at Hayward Gallery from 13 February until 6 May 2019

From internationally acclaimed artists at Hayward Gallery, to pop-up installations, showcases and immersive experiences. Engaging and inspiring art and exhibitions can be found across Southbank Centre.

current & upcoming exhibitions

 

Header Image: Installation view of Kader Attia: The Museum of Emotion at Hayward Gallery. Copyright the artist, courtesy Hayward Gallery 2019. Photo: Linda Nylind

 

Olafur Eliasson: four of the artist’s most famous installations

The work of Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson has been exhibited at some of the biggest museums, galleries and shows in the world, including MoMA, New York, Tate Modern, the Venice Biennale, and our own Hayward Gallery. On the publication of his new illustrated book, Olafur Eliasson: Experience, he returned to Southbank Centre to join us as part of London Literature Festival, for a talk about his work and themes.

But before Eliasson took to our Queen Elizabeth Hall stage we thought we’d take look back at four of the most iconic installations from an artist who seeks to make his art relevant to society at large, and engage the public be they inside or outside the gallery.

 

The Weather Project, 2003

The weather project, 2003, monofrequency lamps, projection screen, haze machines, foil mirror, aluminium, scaffolding, 26.7 x 22.3 x 155.44 m (87 5⁄8 x 73 1⁄8 x 510 ft), installation view at Tate Modern, London, 2003. Picture credit: Tate photography, Andrew Dunkley & Marcus Leith


 

Eliasson’s most celebrated large-scale installation and the one for which he will perhaps be most well-known to a British audience. In 2003 Eliasson’s The Weather Project transformed the Tate Modern’s huge Turbine Hall into a captivating artificial environment with representations of the sun and sky dominating the space. The site-specific work drew over two million visitors to the gallery.

 

The New York City Waterfalls, 2008

The New York City Waterfalls, 2008 (four waterfalls positioned along New York’s East River), water, scaffolding, steel grillage and troughs, pumps, piping, intake filter pool frames and filter fabric, LED lights, ultra-violet filters, concrete, switch gears, electrical equipment and wiring, control modules, anemometers. Picture: creative commons


 

Commissioned by the Public Art Fund, The New York City Waterfalls was a temporary installation,which ran from mid-July to mid-October 2008. The piece consisted of four huge man-made waterfalls, constructed from scaffolding, which were located along New York’s East River.

 

Your Rainbow Panorama, 2011

Your rainbow panorama, 2006–11, ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum, Denmark. Picture credit: Lars Aarø


 

This permanent work, set atop the ARoS Kunstmuseum in Denmark, consists of a circular walkway enclosed by multicolored transparent panels representing the full color spectrum. Extending from one edge of the museum's façade to the other, the vivid rainbow hues invite visitors to walk around the structure, experiencing panoramic city views through the various tones.

 

Ice Watch, 2014

Ice Watch, 2014, (with Minik Rosing), 12 blocks of glacial ice, dimensions variable, installation views at Place du Panthéon, Paris, 2015. Picture credit: Martin Argyroglo


 

For Ice Watch Eliasson harvested twelve large blocks of ice cast off from the Greenland ice sheet from a fjord outside Nuuk, and then presented them in a clock formation. The first installation of Ice Watch was in Copenhagen’s City Hall Square in October 2014, followed by a second installation at Paris’ Place du Panthéon. The work raises awareness of climate change by providing a direct and tangible experience of the reality of melting arctic ice.

 

Jacket of Olafur Eliasson Experience

All of the above works are featured in the artist’s new book Olafur Eliasson: Experience, which spans the career of the artist todate. The book is published by Phaidon and available now.

Southbank Centre is the home of literature and spoken word events in the UK, and the venue for London Literature Festival and Poetry International. Throughout the year we host talks, discussions, readings and more featuring bestselling authors, award-winning poets and inspirational writers.

discover upcoming events

Adapt to Survive: Notes from the Future

A free HENI Project Space exhibition of works that addressed how our world might look and feel in the future
Date override 
18 Apr 2018 – 11 Jun 2018
Type override 
exhibition
Hero title gray box disabled 
enabled

Cornelia Parker: the art of printing with light and glass

Cornelia Parker: One Day This Glass Will Break | Hayward Touring Exhibition

Acclaimed british sculptor and installation artist Cornelia Parker has long been fascinated with the physical properties of objects and materials. This can be seen in her recent series of works in which the artist transforms the three dimensional into the two dimensional by placing ordinary objects directly onto photographic plates and exposing them to ultraviolet light.

In this interview for Hayward Gallery Touring the artist discusses how this approach was initially inspired by the work of the pioneering Victorian photographer Henry Fox Talbot, and explains the process that lies behind these fascinating photogravures.

 

These latest experiments in photography and printmaking from Cornelia Parker are presented in a current Hayward Gallery Touring exhibition of twenty large-scale photogravures from three series: Thirty Pieces of Silver (Exposed) (2015), One Day This Glass Will Break (2015) and Fox Talbot’s Articles of Glass (2017).

I’m not trying to depict something, or represent something, I want it just to be itself
Cornelia Parker

The exhibition Cornelia Parker: One Day This Glass Will Break will be on display at galleries around the UK during 2018 and 2019, and beyond.

Royal West of England Academy, Bristol
16 December – 28 January 2018

Brentwood Road Gallery, Romford
3 February – 11 March 2018

mac, Birmingham
7 July – 2 September 2018

East Gallery, Norwich
10 September – 13 October 2018

Gerald Moore Gallery, Eltham
12 January – 17 February 2019

Oriel Wrecsam, Wrexham
29 June – 4 August 2019

find out more about the exhibition

David Batchelor on art and the urban environment

David Batchelor is an artist, sculptor and writer who has achieved global recognition for his installations crafted from found objects which are given new life as brightly coloured light boxes or unlit composites.

Batchelor’s works have illuminated galleries and public spaces from São Paulo’s Galeria Leme to St Pancras International. His latest commission, Sixty Minute Spectrum (2017), will light up the recently refurbished iconic rooflights of the Hayward Gallery as we countdown to our reopening in January 2018.

But why has the use of colour become so integral to Batchelor’s work? And what is it about the urban landscape that continues to inspire him? We caught up with the artist ahead of the launch of Sixty Minute Spectrum to find out more.

You’re an artist who has become synonymous with brightly coloured, illuminated installations, yet much of your earlier work centred on monochromes. How did that transition take place? Or is it wrong to view it as a transition?

The earliest works I made after I left college were black paintings, and then I made some mostly white constructions. I hadn’t thought about colour for a good many years until one day in the studio, in one of those slightly desperate moments, I painted the front of a small sculpture bright pink. From that point, which was over 25 years ago, I began to think about colour, to work with it in the studio and to read and write about it. Colour is such a complex subject – technically, neurologically, culturally, linguistically, politically – that I have never tired of it.

You have spoken before, in conversation with the philosopher Jonathan Rée, about how you feel that ‘abstract art is the art of the city and that monochrome is its exemplary form’. Why do you believe this to be the case? What is is that separates abstract art from the non urban environment?

I had in mind the kind of flat, planar abstract art that begins with Malevich, Rodchenko, Popova and others, and has continued in a wide variety of forms in Europe, the Americas, Asia and elsewhere. My point was that you only find flat, regular, monochromatic surfaces in the city. Nature is always about modulation, depth and infinite variety. At the same time people have said abstract art and the monochrome are a turning away from the everyday life of the city. In fact you can find monochromes everywhere in the city, if you look for them, that how the series of photographs, Found Monochromes, came about.

Do you still collect Found Monochromes? Are they something you find yourself unconsciously identifying?

I began photographing found white monochromes in 1997. The most recent one, which I came across a couple of weeks ago, is number six hundred and something. The reasons I began taking them and the reasons I have continued to take them for 20 years may be rather different, but I identify with them quite consciously. They form a kind of 20 year map of my movements within London and in every other city I have visited.

301117_HaywardGallery-VF-7363

Your connection to the urban environment as a platform for abstract art is clear in a number of your commissions, including this latest one for us. Are you interested in subverting the mundanity of the everyday through bright colours that are impossible to ignore?

The architectural environment tends to be very neutral in terms of colour: concrete, steel and glass tend toward the grey or colourless. I have no problem with this at all, in fact it is a very useful backdrop to my work, which can contrast with it quite dramatically. In addition, many surfaces in the city are shiny or reflective, which means that colour, and illuminated colour in particular, can bounce around this environment a long way from its source, especially at night. Advertisers worked this out a long time ago; I try to use colour for its own sake rather than in the service of a particular product or a market.

I’m not quite vain enough to assume my work is especially subversive, but I do hope that it might invite people to ask some questions about the physical, cultural and chromatic spaces we all inhabit.

Coming back to your commission for Hayward Gallery, what was the brief you were given, and how did you arrive at your work Sixty Minute Spectrum?

To be honest I don’t quite remember the exact brief, but I talked with [Hayward Gallery Director] Ralph Rugoff over several months about developing a work that would both draw attention to the gallery – which has been ‘dark’ for three years – and have some kind of countdown element that would point towards its reopening.

Further to this – why sixty minutes? What was it that drew you to this particular time frame?

I have often thought that clocks are one of the best and most useful forms of public art. This work will function as a kind of timepiece that moves through the spectrum like a minute hand on a clock. In the same way that it is very difficult to see a minute hand move, you won’t be able to see the colour change, but if you look away for a short while and then look back you will see that the colour has changed. Also, if you know it is mid-red at 00 on the clock, and mid-green at 30 minutes past the hour, you will also be able to work out the approximate time depending on which particular colour is visible.

Your work has been exhibited both in and on Hayward Gallery before –  with Magic Hour (2004/7) which appeared in our 2013 Light Show exhibition and with Festival Remix, the winter lights project first shown in 2006.  What does this gallery mean to you?

I first visited the Hayward Gallery when I was about 14 years old and I must have been back several times a year, every year, since then, so you can safely say it has been a part of the my cultural life for nearly half a century. It means a great deal to me: it has helped shape who I am as an artist and as a person, for better or worse.


 

Sixty Minute Spectrum - David Batchelor

David Batchelor’s Sixty Minute Spectrum illuminated Hayward Gallery’s iconic rooflights until 25 March 2018.

find out more

After a two-year refurbishment Hayward Gallery reopened to the public on 25 January 2018.

more on Hayward Gallery

 

interview by Glen Wilson

Four Nordic installations that are anything but minimalist

You might think you know all about Nordic design and aesthetics, but four free installations on show now at Southbank Centre could well give you a new perspective.

They couldn’t be further away from the clean, minimalistic vibe so many of us associate with the region. Instead they range from the playful to the grotesque – and, with their interactive elements, are great for entertaining children.

All feature as part of our Nordic Matters celebrations.

Find out more here

The Gnome King by Kalle Mustonen

Gnomes play a significant role in many Nordic folk traditions, and our Gnome King is as enigmatic as any you’ll have come across. For one thing, he’s very big! And while he’s a member of royalty, he resembles a traditional garden gnome. You can peek inside him, where you’ll discover the Gnome King is also a shed. Is he asleep – or something more sinister?

Visit him for free today, he’s lying down on Level 2, Royal Festival Hall, until Wednesday 30 August 2017.

Kalle Mustonen Gnome King

Kalle Mustonen is a Finnish sculptor working in Lahti and Helsinki. Gnomes have figured extensively in his work.

Gnome King

Appearing Rooms by Jeppe Hein

You and your kids might think of this popular summer pop-up as ‘the fountain’, but did you know that it is actually a playful, interactive sculpture?

It uses walls made of water to form four ‘rooms’. The trick is that a randomised sequence means that the walls rise and fall, changing the shape of the rooms without any warning and sometimes giving participants a soaking.

It’s also a super fun way to cool down on a hot day – and free to visit. You can find Appearing Rooms on Festival Terrace until Sunday 24 September 2017.

1 Jeppe Hein's Appearing Room Fountains

Appearing Rooms

Modified Social Benches NY by Jeppe Hein

Park benches are a common sight in cities everywhere, but ours are sure to catch your eye as you wander around Southbank Centre.

Not only are they a very vibrant colour, but they turn the traditional design of a seat on its head. These park benches twist and turn in unusual ways, to make sure that sitting on them becomes a conscious process, if not always a comfortable one.

They’re also fun to climb on, provide great locations for photos and are completely free to use. You can find them in various outdoor locations across our site until Sunday 24 September 2017.

Jeppe Hein's Modified Social Benches

Jeppe Hein is a Danish artist. He recently held an exhibition called Jeppe Hein: Please Touch The Art.

Modified Social Benches NY

Falling Shawls by Outi Pieski

The Sami people, indigenous to northern areas of what is now Norway, Sweden and Finland, are famous for their intricate weaving techniques. This artwork uses a thousand handcrafted shawls, made by 12 Sami women, to create what Outi Pieski calls a ‘drawing in the air’. The result is a colourful, beautiful display which transforms delicate garments into a striking installation.

You can see Falling Shawls by visiting Level 2, Royal Festival Hall – or try climbing the stairs for a different perspective. How many shawls can you count? Runs until Sunday 31 December 2017.

Outi Pieski, Fallen Shawls, 2017 - Part of Nordic Matters

Outi Pieski is a Finnish-Sami visual artist from Utsjoki, the Sami area in northern Finland.

Falling Shawls

Pages