Abandon all hope
Digital print on acetate, wooden frame with glass, 29 x 24 x 2 cms
This work has been selected for ‘DOORWAYS’, part of the 2018 FaB Festival in Bath. The exhibition is curated by Mike & Dona Bradley; 25 May – 10 June at 7 New Bond Street Place, Bath.
The title ‘Abandon all hope’ refers to the phrase ‘Abandon all hope, ye who enter here’, which Dante places at the gates to hell in Canto III of his ‘Divine Comedy’. In the epic poem, hell is a realm full of those who have given in to the temptation to commit evil, such as brutal violence, or acts of malice, towards others.
I took this photograph of the doorway to the Pathology Block at Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp in Germany. The camp was built in 1936 and was designed and planned by SS architects to be the ‘ideal’ camp, intended to express their world view through its architecture. Between 1936 and 1945, more than 200,000 people were imprisoned in Sachsenhausen.
The doorway to the Pathology Block is built above the Mortuary Cellar, which was used to house bodies prior to cremation. The dilapidated state of the wooden doorway is emphasized in my work by the halftone print technique I have used. The loss of detail in the image relates to the loss of information – it is impossible to know what evil lay beyond this doorway, or even where the door itself is located, without further explanation. The doors in the image are casually open, allowing contemporary visitors to the camp to see inside, and even step inside, whereas during the time of their original use their opening and closing would have been extremely controlled. This doorway was the threshold to inconceivable horrors, yet now, and out of context, it looks banal and commonplace. An innocuous title to this work would have obscured further what it actually represents.
Digital audioscape, digital video, wooden box frames, 9.38 mins. (looped)
Bush House Arcade, London, 9 October 2017 – 31 January 2018
BABEL NEWS was the first artwork (along with photographs by Bogdan Frymorgan) to be exhibited in the newly opened Arcade Space at Bush House, in 2017. It was a real privilege to have my installation there.
BABEL NEWS was commissioned as part of the 2017 Arts & Humanities Festival, on the theme of ‘World Service’. This idea was interpreted both broadly conceptually, and literally, in terms of the BBC World Service. It formed part of a broader project ‘Influencing the World, Listening to the World: the Emergence of the Public Voice’, which included a panel discussion about how wars and major international issues are presented and discussed, the language used, and themes such as propaganda, spin and fake news that communicate these issues.
‘The BBC World Service has been pivotal in reporting global conflict for almost eight decades. The acquisition of its former home, Bush House, by King’s, gives us an opportunity to explore the ways in which news reporting, strategic communication, public discussion and engagement, the very idea of global service in the broadest sense, audio-visual (radio-television) balances, the place of audiences and publics, and attitudes to key global issues have changed, since the BBC World Service began to broadcast in 1932.’
The panel included Emily Kasriel, BBC World Service, Professor Sir Lawrence Freedman, King’s College London, Dr. Nicholas Michelsen, King’s College London, Professor Marie Gillespie, Open University, and Dr. Neville Bolt, Editor-in-Chief Defence Strategic Communications.
BABEL NEWS itself features an ‘audioscape’, composed by layering extracts from the following BBC programmes:
WORLD HAVE YOUR SAY
‘A New Life’ presented by Ben James
‘Libya: The people’s war’ presented by Ros Atkins
‘Images’ presented by David Baddiel, featuring Prof. James Gow
‘Reconciliation – healing the nation’ presented by Bridget Kendall
‘Invisibility’ presented by Samira Ahmed
These have been overlaid, and volumes altered, to weave a tapestry of voices which are sometimes clearly audible, with distinct phrases standing out, yet which, at other times, merge into an indecipherable babble of sound.
In terms of the visual, too, there are multiple layers, which merge at times to form a complex surface, and at others reveal themselves clearly as a single image. These include images of digital sound waves, analogue television glitches, drawn-on photographs and more.
BABEL NEWS was supposed to come down at then of the Festival, but it worked so well in the space that the King’s Cultural Institute decided to keep it in place as long as possible, until the end of January 2018.
For more on this installation listen to the KCL podcast on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/warstudies/art-and-reconciliation
‘Artists, artistic practices and reconciliation’
Artists discussion on the role of art in reconciliation, convened by Milena Michalski, Somerset House Studios, 28 January 2018
PODCAST LINK RELATING TO THE EVENT:
NOTES ON THE EVENTS
Participating artists, along with me:
Emma Elliott: a sculptor, whose work ‘Reconciliation’ relates to the Holocaust, whilst also referencing the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. http://www.emmaelliott.com/work
Alketa Xhafa Mripa: a conceptual artist who created ‘Thinking of You’, in which she filled a football stadium in Kosovo with dresses to remember victims of war rape. Discussing her installation ‘Refugees Welcome’, in 2016, Alketa said: ‘Art may not be a solution for the millions of people in the world who have lost their homes. But I believe that art can make the issue of refugees visible, in a way that is understood by all, regardless of faith, nationality or language. Where language fails, art can break through.’ http://www.tracesproject.org/alketa-xhafa-mripa
Gunther Herbst: a painter who works with ideas around memory, memorialisation and monuments in South Africa.
Naresh Kaushal: filmmaker and photographer, whose practice involves bringing stories and experiences from the real world to life and encompasses both documentary and abstract techniques. https://www.camerawala.org/about
Art on Conflict
Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum, Woodstock
28 September – 26 October 2017
I was invited to exhibit in this international group show on conflict because of my work on war crimes sites and other political and military conflicts, but l was keen be part of it specifically because I was interested in its broader understanding of ‘conflict’ – as something which can be between individuals, between communities or countries, for example, but also as something internal, within an individual, and specifically here, within the artist. This fits precisely with my own thinking in the context of our ‘Art & Reconciliation’ project, where I am also considering issues of reconciliation within oneself, as well as within communities, and again – with specific reference to the arts.
‘Art on Conflict’ took place in the ‘Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum’, as part of the Wake up to Woodstock Festival, curated to complement and reflect the themes of power, conflict and activism in Jenny Holzer’s show and night time projection at Blenheim Palace, ‘Softer’.
The museum, which is very near the Palace, in a lovely, leafy setting, is small but rich in content, and a real pleasure to show in, thanks to Dennis Allen, Rod Craig and Jenny Kelly. I showed 4 separate works, spanning from 2012 to 2017, including a new iteration of my ongoing sculptural installation series, ‘Two Towers’, as well as a unique print loaned by King’s College London, ‘Scene/Unseen’.
All the works in the exhibition were selected ‘to reflect artistic, personal and historical conflicts’, including very recent ones, as in the powerful and imposing pieces by the Syrian painter, Sara Shamma.
I specifically chose a place right by the mirror for my transparent and translucent sculptural installation, ‘Two Towers Talk’, as it introduced an additional reflective facet to its element of light play.
For me, one of the highlights of this exhibition was ‘Waterproof’, a beautiful film by and about Graham Dean’s paintings and processes. It is his painting that was used on the exhibition poster.
The Oxford Times published a feature on the exhibition, which can be accessed here:
‘Looking In, Looking Out’
King’s College London with the Freud Museum London, 13 September – 31 October
Installation created for the exhibition
‘Anna Freud and Play’
My installation ‘Looking In, Looking Out’ comprises three parts: two prints and a sculptural, perspex piece incorporating print within it.
The installation treats issues of home and exile, of protection and threat, of visibility and invisibility.
It relates both to Anna Freud (and Sigmund Freud) as a refugee, and to my own family history, and by extension to general issues of home, flight, exile, refuge, and questions of reconciliation between past, present and future.
The overall theme of the exhibition was ‘Anna Freud and Play’, so for this piece I created an iteration of my ongoing series of acrylic architectural constructions, this time incorporating pieces of the children’s classic building toy ‘PlayPlax’, designed by Patrick Rylands in 1966. Like my construction, ‘PlayPlax’ is made of transparent or translucent Perspex.
The two accompanying, yet discrete, prints, ’Duality’ and ‘Looking In, Looking Out’, each interweave two places, times and themes. Both are created by superimposing two photographs, in one doors, in the other windows, in the Freud family house. One set of doors and windows is at Berggasse 19, Vienna, Austria, where Freud lived and worked from 1891 until 1938, when he and his family were forced into exile by the National Socialists. The second sets are at 20, Maresfield Gardens, London, UK, where the family fled to, and which remained the family home until Anna Freud, the youngest daughter, died in 1982. Both Sigmund and Anna Freud worked here too.
‘Ruins of Time / Asylum’
Exhibition at Asylum Chapel, Caroline Gardens, Asylum Road, London
28-31 March 2017
This exhibition is part of the ongoing ‘Ruins of Time’ series of exhibitions, part of the London-Munich exchange.
The three works showing at Asylum – ‘Disintegrating’, ‘Unveiled’ and ‘Abandoned’ – were created specifically for the site. The over-arching theme is the concept of ‘asylum’, in all its meanings, and, inherent within it, its opposite. These works are an attempt to reconcile the building’s past uses and fate during the war with its current functions as an arts venue, amongst other uses.
On the simplest level, the works refer to the fabric of the former chapel itself, in its captivating state of partial decay. This is both a reflection on time passing, life and death, and a reference to the chapel having been part of a place of retirement, worship and funerals for ‘decayed members’ of the victuallers trade. On another level, it references the bomb damage dating from the second world war, which destroyed the roof and left the stained glass windows broken in places.
The three works all focus on architectural elements, whether a rotting plain window and disintegrating wall, a smashed, coloured, stained glass window or fragments of plaster and paint. These parts of a building are pitifully inadequate at providing any protection, as they were originally intended to do; they have become decorative yet disturbing, reminders of times, places and people long since gone. They function only as metaphors. These works created for Asylum amplify these ideas further, by alluding to the chapel’s physical decrepitude, and the adoption of the site as a venue in which its functional failures have become aesthetic ‘assets’.