11 February to 15 April 2018
Helen Cammock, Ilker Cinarel, Jesse Darling, Maryam Monalisa Gharavi, Juliet Jacques, Isaac Julien, Carolyn Lazard, Zinzi Minott, The Newsreel Collective, Harold Offeh, Raju Rage, S1 Portland (Women's Beat League), Syllabus III and Liv Wynter.
more of an avalanche presented work produced, researched, shared or discussed at Wysing in 2017 when we developed our programme under the theme Polyphonic (many voices). The exhibition considers what it takes for people in marginalised positions to speak out and the mechanisms that get used to stop them from doing so. Looking back at 2017, the exhibition includes the ephemeral "work" produced at Wysing alongside traditional material forms. Photos, posters, mixes, furniture and a collection of writing reference the informal discussions, DJ sets, meals, workshops, experiments and events that shaped the year.
The exhibition takes the term "snowflake" as a starting point, a term used pejoratively by the political right to code dissent as whining, vulnerability as over-sensitivity and the right to protest as a willingness to take offence. Across Wysing's gallery and a screening room, works take sensitivity and fragility as a starting point and look for strength in numbers and strength in networks. Intended as an insult, the metaphor of a 'snowflake' provides its own key for survival and defence. Bound together and in great enough numbers, snowflakes become something hard, strong and with their own energy.
A new installation and performance by Liv Wynter, Housefire, 2018, considers the absurdity and fatigue of constantly having to speak out. Referring to Aesop's fable of the Boy Who Cried Wolf as much as Marx's famous quote about history repeating itself "first as tragedy, then as farce", Wynter's monologue takes the position of a woman whose house burns down repeatedly.
Character Building, 2008, a video from Helen Cammock presents street scenes from the artist's life in London and overlays them with narrative accounts of racial abuse. The video is accompanied by two lino-cuts Untitled (Over Sensitive) and Untitled (De Sensitised), both 2015.
Historical works by Isaac Julien and The Newsreel Collective refer to the origins of the term "snowflake" in insults like "the loony left" and "political correctness gone mad" and point to the long history of culture wars through the 70s, 80s and 90s. Both films by The Newsreel Collective, Divide and Rule Never!, 1978, and True Romance Etc.,1982, were made with young Londoners who are invited to act, improvise scripts and to discuss issues around racism, gender and sexuality. A soundtrack of reggae, ska and post-punk refers to the role of music and movements like Rock Against Racism in efforts to mobilise against the far-right.
Isaac Julien's That Rush!, 1995, is a short visual essay exploring the phenomenon of the American "shock-jock" radio and TV presenter Rush Limbaugh. A voiceover from Patricia Williams analyses Limbaugh's strategies as he attempts to ridicule the concerns of the left and to represent white Americans as an "invisible nation". Rarely seen since the 90s, this early gallery work from a pioneering artist seems eerily prescient in the age of a new populist, digitally enabled, right-wing media.
Works in the first half of the gallery from Wynter, Cammock, Julien and The Newsreel Collective suggest that the rise of the political right (and attempts to silence a "sensitive" voice) has historically been tied to an expression of toxic masculinity where toughness trumps sensitivity and where brutality can be character building. Photos from Ilker Cinarel and Harold Offeh propose new possible formations of masculinity while Raju Rage, Syllabus III, Jesse Darling and S1 Portland/Women's Beat League look at strategies for finding strength, power and safety in collectivity.
For Ilker Cinarel's Adopting A Father, 2015–, project, the artist posted an advert in a local paper to find a father to adopt. Each person who responded was invited to the Engine Room Gallery in Penzance for a discussion about family and fatherhood and a portrait session. The project is presented through a series of 25 photographic portraits.
Lounging, 2018, a series of test images from Harold Offeh, continues his long interest in iconic album covers. For these images, the artist adopts a lounging pose from Teddy Pendergrass's 1981 album It's Time For Love, recontextualising Pendergrass's carefully-calibrated pose of sexual availability/longing in a series of scenes from the Cambridgeshire countryside.
Jesse Darling's #neoliberal Agitprop Poster, 2014, acts as a rallying cry for those marginalised by a political and economic system that seeks to punish anybody displaying signs of physical or mental illness. Along with Offeh, Darling was a lead artist on the year's Syllabus III programme, whose ten participating artists have designed and produced a zine of new writing and reading references that respond to the themes of the exhibition. The work was commissioned by Banner Repeater for the fundraiser print portfolio, 2014.
Under/Valued Energetic Economy, 2017, (a term inspired by Alexis Pauline Gumbs) is a new installation from Raju Rage that maps out the tangled ecology between the artist's concerns such as "activism", "arts", "conversation" and "white-supremacist patriarchy". Presented on a trestle table top with objects and artifacts that references their interest in kitchen-table conversations and the knowledges that are produced by them, the work highlights informal strategies of organising and collectivity but takes care to point out that their informality is often a symptom of being undervalued and excluded from mainstream conversations and spaces.
In June 2017, S1 Portland/Women's Beat League led a study week at Wysing that explored female and non-binary views in electronic music. For this exhibition, the collective present a genre-spanning series of mixes that can be listened to in the gallery or online.
Maryam Monalisa Gharavi's video Contain Contain, 2017, reenacts Parangol' Helium, 1979, a single-shot film experiment by Ivan Cardosa that features artist Hélio Oiticica improvising with a parangolé, a handmade costume or sculpture. Gharavi's reenactment with Samar Haddad King (choreographer) and Ramzy Natsheh (performer) transposes the source from Brazil in a period of military dictatorship to contemporary Ramallah in occupied Palestine. Split across the gallery and the open studio, the work is interested in the reenactment and choreography of what was once spontaneous and improvisational.
You Will Be Free, 2017, a film by Juliet Jacques, was made in response to Cookie Mueller & Vittorio Scarpati's Putti’s Pudding, a series of drawings and texts made together as the two lovers were dying from AIDS-related illnesses in 1989. Jacques' film begins by meditating on death, the body and illness before reflecting on the AIDS crisis, activism and alternative lifestyles created when "drop outs and drifters" come together. The work was commissioned by Studio Voltaire.
In Get Well Soon, 2015, Carolyn Lazard re-imagines a patient's travails with the US biomedical industrial complex as a text-based computer game as a gowned figure moves through an ambiguous landscape. Lazard has also contributed a text, How to be a Person in the Age of Autoimmunity, which details their experience with the autoimmune diseases Crohns disease and Ankylosing spondylitis.
Zinzi Minott's Gun Fingers and Opaque Bullets, 2017, was commissioned to open Opaque Poetics, the eighth edition of Wysing's annual music festival, which was curated by DJ and producer Nkisi. A soundtrack (also from Nkisi) blends the evocative synths of classic jungle with the brittle percussion of contemporary club sounds and accompanies abstract imagery of the sea, telephone wires and a dancing figure. Presented with posters from the festival, the video suggests the emancipatory potential of music and dance and their role in fostering temporary communities of resistance.
more of an avalance is curated by John Eng Kiet Bloomfield and supported by Arts Council England.