Archives for posts with tag: Lisa Chang Lee

It was such a pleasure to show with Sandra Crisp and Jockel Liess at Saturation Point. We were very pleased with how our films worked together in Projected Topographies and reflected out into the night skies of London.

Sandra Crisp: E_Life uses 3D generated animation, presenting intensely textured and dynamic geometry sequenced over time.

Multiple constantly transforming organic forms, each originating from a simple 3D sphere are mapped with eclectic visuals such as emojis, fragmented images borrowed from 24-hour online rolling-news media and others downloaded via a search engine. Particle systems generate repeated, yet varied objects throughout the film which appear to have a life of their own. Overall suggesting the possibility of a simulated future/ nature.

Jockel Liess: Variations on a theme is a generative audiovisual system which starts from a point of fascination with the aesthetics of irregular organic patterns.

Visually as well as sonically the aesthetic of natural patterns thrives on their intrinsic imperfection which are never distributed even or orderly, are never replications of themselves. They are rather reoccurring variations that form a recognisable tapestry of familiarity across an otherwise chaotic and unpredictable structure. Prospering from the tension that arises between repetition and asymmetry, and playfully inhabit the border region between order and randomness.

Susan Eyre: Aóratos transports the viewer between everyday locations and terrains visually transformed via use of an endoscope, a microscope,and cameras launched in a high altitude balloon.

It is not impossible that wormholes exist in our universe.

Aóratos imagines journeying through hidden landscapes, distorted spacetime and alternative perspectives. Envisaging potential encounters with cosmic strings, space foam, primordial chemistry, radioactive particles and escaping gravity the work conjectures on the enduring allure of traversing a wormhole.

Black holes were once thought to be pure science fiction but in recent decades scientists have discovered that these extraordinary objects exist throughout our universe in all shapes and sizes and  astoundingly have even produced images of them.

Einstein’s theory of general relativity written in 1915 predicted the existence of black holes and is also consistent with the possibility of gravitational tunnels known as wormholes. It could be that there is a hidden web of planck scale wormholes linking all points in space. Theoretically, threaded through these tiny holes would be filaments of cosmic strings created in the primitive goo of early matter and flung across space when the universe burst into existence.

To traverse space by means of a wormhole would require vast amounts of negative energy, not something usually found on Earth yet in the current political climate in no short supply.

The risks and obstacles of entering a wormhole include creating enough negative energy to open the wormhole mouth wide enough to weaken the gravitational tidal forces which would rip travellers apart; keeping it from collapsing so travellers are not indefinitely trapped inside; exceeding the speed of light and avoiding incineration from deadly high radiation.

The video work explores hidden landscapes, the distortion of space and the permeability of barriers such as force fields and human skin to the unseen particles that constantly teem at near light speed across the universe.

Edge of atmosphere footage was achieved with the help of Sena Harayama, Romain Clement De Givry and Medad Newman from Imperial College Space Society supervised by senior lecturer in spacecraft engineering Dr Aaron Knoll. We also had help from the UK High Altitude Society. My ambition was to film cosmic particles at the point where most of the activity of collisions takes place, about 15km up and so we launched a cloud chamber in the payload of a high-altitude balloon. Unfortunately the prepared chamber was broken the night before the launch and the replacement was not really adequate. Also due to a turbulent launch the camera inside the payload was knocked to one side so we were unable to film this cosmic activity but did get amazing footage above the clouds, gained a height of 35km and successfully retrieved the payload from a field of horses.

Space travellers can ‘see’ cosmic rays as they pass through the retina and cause the rods and cones to fire, triggering a flash of light that is really not there. The retina functions as a mini cloud chamber where the recording of a cosmic ray is displayed by a trail left in its wake.

Aóratos translates as ‘unseen’.

It was a real treat to be invited by Alan Smith and Helen Ratcliff for a short residency at Allenheads Contemporary Arts in Northumberland as part of the Being Human Festival – a celebration of humanities research through public engagement with North Pennines Observatory at Allenheads Contemporary Arts partnering with Durham University to present an evening of discussion and potential stargazing. After a few days of conversations, preparing presentations and meeting the other speakers we were looking forward to the event but unfortunately this was cancelled at the last minute due to flood warnings in the area. We are hoping it can be rescheduled.

While the weather was clear I headed to Allenheads village for a walk and called in at the Blacksmith’s forge where I had previously shown Aóratos as a site specific participatory installation.

I am appreciative of the dark skies in this location which feels like it is on top of the planet and therefore closer to the sky. I live in south west London so it is a real treat to be away from light pollution. While there, I was keen to make some time lapse film of the stars circling Polaris as research for work about the earth’s magnetic field and magnetoreception. Birds can see the magnetic field and use this extra sense as well as the sun, the moon and the stars to navigate on their migration routes. I am also speculating about the possibility for humans to sense the magnetic field

As the centuries go by, the North Celestial Pole shifts and different stars become the North Star. It takes about 25,800 years for the Earth’s axis to complete a single wobble. Polaris became the north star in about the fifth century and will get closer to straight above the Earth’s north pole until sometime in 2102. Before Polaris was the North Star it was Thuban and next up is Vega.

The skies were clear for a few hours when I first arrived at ACA so I was able to build a short star trail sequence but after that the fog and then the rain settled in.

When reading about the history of Hartland Magnetic Observatory, established in 1955, it mentions ‘A permanent distant mark or azimuth mark was erected on a concrete obelisk 7 or 8 feet high near the site’s northern boundary. Viewed through the window in the north wall of the Absolute Hut, its azimuth is 11º27’54” E of N. It is still in use today.’ I was intrigued that an obelisk should be used for the azimuth mark. I had hoped to see it on my research trip to Hartland but found it is currently inaccessible with just the tip protruding from dense undergrowth.

I am reimagining this object as a sculpture made from stacked recycled paper to appear stratified like the sedimentary rock that holds clues to the Earth’s magnetic field reversals and am working to the dimension ratios recommended to avoid emotional unrest.

Obelisk dimensions from “The Problem of Obelisks” catalogued by Egyptologist with the Cairo Museum Reginald Engelbach, 1923.

Before the Meridian Line was moved to Greenwich, London time was calculated from the King’s Observatory at Kew.
There are three obelisks in the Old Deer Park used as meridian marks to adjust the instruments at the Observatory built by George III to observe the transit of Venus in 1769.

As I plan to make the obelisk pyramidion in copper I signed up for the Sheet Copper Sculpture Worksop taught by Robert Worley at The London Sculpture Workshop. To begin we were shown how to beat out a bowl shape and apply a dark patina using chemicals and heat.

I was introduced to the plasma gun. Very satisfying cutting with the fourth state of matter. These shapes are based on the fluid fluctuations of the Earth’s geomagnetic field and I plan to use these on the north wall of The Absolute Hut sculpture in my show next year, tacked over moss with copper pins.

Magnetism is caused by the motion of electric charges. Electrons spinning around the nucleus in atoms generate an electric current and cause each electron to act like a tiny magnet. In most substances, equal numbers of electrons spin in opposite directions, which cancels out their magnetism. In iron, cobalt, and nickel, most of the electrons spin in the same direction which makes the atoms in these substances strongly magnetic. By rubbing a piece of iron along a magnet, the north-seeking poles of the atoms in the iron line up in the same direction creating a magnetic field and turning the iron into a magnet. A magnetic field can also be created by running electricity through a coil of wire, but the field will disappear when the electric current is turned off.

Work in progress on Breath of Stars (the cosmic ray detector interactive video) has been to convert all the .avi star burst video files to VP8.webm using Shutter Encoder software. Jamie, the programmer, has code working now to display video files with transparency so they can be layered.

Gallery Visits

Simon Leahy-Clark solo show FEED at Artworks Project Space. Painterly surfaces made from newspaper clippings have unexpected depth in palette, flow and cosmic imagery, considering the origin of each segment. Mesmerizing to study the forms like spotting patterns in the constellations. Really liked this work.

Caroline AreskogJones Tonight Rain, Tomorrow Mud at Filet Space with live sonic response from Oskar Jones incorporating field recordings gathered whilst walking in Andalucía and captured acoustics whilst making the drawings.

A thoughtfully crafted exhibition capturing the fragile landscape that turns to dust without water and mud when the rains come. The beautiful audio accompaniment from Oskar added to the meditative experience of being transported elsewhere while having time to focus of the works installed with a resonant delicacy.

Lisa Chang Lee showing HZ-0 at Enclave Projects Lake, a sensory device created in collaboration with James Wilkie that creates soundscapes responding to the void around it. Equipped with seven sensors measuring temperature, light, air pollution, sound etc data is fed into an algorithmic software based on the Lydian scale. I hadn’t heard of this scale but am interested to discover it’s connections to gravity and magnetism. The Lydian Chromatic Scale is the most complete expression of the total self-organized tonal gravity field with which all tones relate on the basis of their close to distant magnetism to a Lydian tonic. Tonal gravity is the heart of the Lydian Chromatic Concept. Simply put, the basic building block of tonal gravity is the interval of the perfect fifth. Every tone within Western music’s equal tempered tuning relates to every other tone by either being close to – or distant from – the center of gravity, which is the tonic (or “DO”) of the Lydian Scale. There are 3 states of tonal gravity: Vertical, Horizontal, and Supra-Vertical.

This is a fascinating work thinking about other ways to experience a space.

Hollow Earth: Art, Caves & The Subterranean Imaginary at Nottingham Contemporary.

Inspired by the hundreds of caves hand carved into the rock beneath the city of Nottingham this exhibition explores questions of thresholds, darkness and prehistory. ‘Every culture and religion has told stories about what lies beneath. Caves are where extraordinary events come to pass, the domain of gods and monsters, of births, burial and rebirth. Dark, dangerous and unstable, caves are places of visions and experiences both sacred and profane. More recently, they have become home to data farms, seed vaults and doomsday bunkers.’

Artists include: Hamed Abdalla, Lee Bontecou, Sofia Borges, Brassaï, The Center for Land Use Interpretation, Steven Claydon, Matt Copson, Juan Downey, Chioma Ebinama, Mary Beth Edelson, Laura Emsley, Barry Flanagan, Ilana Halperin, Frank Heath, Ed Herring, Michael Ho, Hans Hollein, Peter Hujar, Athanasius Kircher, Alison Knowles, Antti Lovag, Goshka Macuga, René Magritte, Gordon Matta-Clark, Emma McCormick-Goodhart, Santu Mofokeng, Henry Moore, Nadar, Ailbhe Ní Bhriain, Pauline Oliveros, Lydia Ourahmane, Gordon Parks, Flora Parrott, Walter Pichler, Giuseppe Pinot-Gallizio, Liv Preston, Ben Rivers, Robert Smithson, Michelle Stuart, N.H. Stubbing, Caragh Thuring, Kaari Upson, Jeff Wall, Aubrey Williams, Joseph Wright of Derby.

This was a research trip with Julie Hill towards our joint show next year. The geological resonates through both our work, for Julie through the deep chasms of geology echoing those occurring cosmologically and for myself in the generation of the geomagnetic field deep in the earth which emanates out, reaching into space.

EVERY CLOUD at Bruce Castle Museum.

Nine artists celebrate the life and work of the Namer of Clouds and Tottenham resident, Luke Howard (1772 – 1864) to mark the 250th Anniversary of his birth.

Artists include Tam Joseph, Andrew Miller, Doodleganger, Gabriela Schutz, Helen Currie, Kerry Duggan, Lisa-Marie Price, Mary Yacoob, Siân Dorman with a live cloud sculpture performance from Alexander Costello.

Tam Joseph gave a heartfelt speech about his discovery of Luke Howard from seeing a blue plaque with the citation ‘Namer of Clouds’ which to him spoke of first nation peoples connection to nature and piqued his curiosity to learn more about this poetic origin; the difficulty of painting clouds – never from a photograph – a cloud is never still and a photograph loses the inherent transience; and the shared passion for the shapes and patterns found in the ocean of air above our heads.

Reading

Some history of early speculation, experiments and discoveries of three men who respectively broke new ground in understanding the Earth’s magnetic field, measuring time mechanically and mapping the hidden strata of the Earth.

Latitude and The Magnetic Earth by Stephen Pumfrey. The story of William Gilbert (1544 – 1603), a radical new thinker who questioned the perceived Aristotelian philosophy of the day, developing his own theory of magnetic philosophy of the Earth. His book On the Magnet and Magnetic Bodies, and on the Great Magnet the Earth was published in 1600 in which he concluded that the Earth was itself magnetic.

The lines of latitude and longitude remain fixed as the world flexes and shifts beneath them. Extraordinary to think these lines were drawn centuries BCC and mapped by Ptolemy in the second century on his many atlases.

The zero degree line of latitude is fixed by nature whereas that of longitude is a political decision. The founding philosophy of the Greenwich Observatory viewed astronomy as a means to an end – all the stars needed to be catalogued to chart a course for sailors to cross the globe. Ptolemy first set the meridian off the northwest coast of Africa and many countries set their own starting point for 0 longitude. Eventually, after publication of a series of star charts beginning in 1767, made by the then Royal Astronomer, that became used world wide for nautical navigation, Greenwich was declared prime meridian of the world in 1884 (except by France who took another 27 years to accept the decision).

Longitude by Dava Sobel tells the story of the battle between proponents of the lunar distance method and the mechanical clock to solve the problem of determining longitude at sea. Astronomers and engineers became adversaries spurred by a financial reward offered to the one who came up the most accurate and reliable method. John Harrison (1693 – 1776) carpenter turned clockmaker spent his life perfecting the marine chronometer.

The Map That Changed The World by Simon Winchester might have some historical merit in telling the story of William ‘Strata’ Smith (1769 – 1839) but I found it over perambulatory in the telling.

Delighted that my etching Forest of Eden has been selected for exhibition at AIR Gallery on the theme of the macabre with the exhibition renamed Memento Mori. What happens when we are confronted with the uncomfortable or visually grotesque? What makes the unappealing difficult to digest but impossible to turn away from?

The myth of the wild man stretches back to the tale of Gilgamesh’s quest for immortality.  In history the wild man’s characteristics oscillate between horror and fantasy. They reflect fear of the other as well as aspirations to be at one with nature often violating the taboos of civilization and symbolizing the repressed desires of society. This person who posts photos of himself in charged poses has become an internet meme shared with equal disgust and fascination. In this etching he is placed back in the ancient forest of all our origins.

I have completed the video commission Cosmic Chiasmus (crossing the universe) for Queen’s Hall Digital but am continuing research into cosmic rays. Around 10,000 muons rain down on each square metre of Earth’s surface every minute.

Muon tomography can be used to remotely explore dense matter for hidden voids. High energy cosmic rays such as muons pass through objects, but in doing so, some will be absorbed by the object and so fewer particles will arrive on the other side. This means sensitive muon detectors can be used like x-rays to determine the structure of extremely large and dense objects. This method has been used to reveal a mysterious, 30-metre-long hidden chamber in the 4,500-year-old great pyramid of Giza, to determine the inner structures of volcanoes and to study the damaged nuclear reactor at Fukushima, Japan.

The Robot, The Dentist and The Pyramid is a 45-minute Documentary (2020) from Ancient Architects

I have discovered an audio manipulation in Adobe Audition that makes my own voice acceptable to me as voiceover for my video work. So I have returned to the video Contingent Horizons, rewritten and recorded new dialogue.

This dialogue is based on the excerpts from popular online lectures that I had used before but I have reimagined some of these quotes and included ideas from ancient descriptions of the cosmos.

the nature of the world emerges from shifting patterns

between matter and myth

to the darkest North with moon on water

to the South with sunlit crystal

to the West with Earthbound cubic alter

to the East with circling zephyrs

walking

to know the land as a plotted dimension

as abstract space

as imagined space

Out of the studio:

Lisa Chang Lee Symphony Zero at San Mei Gallery. Beautiful work creating a fragile connection between humans and the natural world as rhythms coincide to create collaborative music. Plants swaying in the breeze are each represented by a musical instrument sympathetic to its form and its movement is transposed using algorithms applied using modes of symmetry and interval into musical scores which in turn are played by humans.

Less a building: Interactions with the London Zoo Aviary book launch hosted by Passengers at The Brunswick Centre. Transported by readings from the book of this iconic flight of fancy in architecture for avian captives at the zoo. A many layered and collaborative research project by Michaela Nettell with Marcela Araguez, Tim Dee, Polly Gould, Alex Hartley, Julie F Hill, Helen Jukes, Milena Michalski, Colin Priest, Ana Ruepp and Matthew Turner. Excellent writing and gorgeous artworks. Now I wish I’d visited the aviary more often.

Geographies of Print collective Without Horizon, Without Shore. Stunning installations set against the civic backdrop of the Old Lambeth County Court, an apt setting for work looking at passage of time, capturing the transient and the human condition.

Victoria Arney has used the sonograms of bird song to create sculptural woodcuts. Capturing fleeting moments within landscape.

Victoria Ahrens looks at erosion and disappearance, creating work in situ using the minerals present in the landscape to hand colour her prints. We think of colour as light bouncing off matter, some absorbed, some reflected, but this work really brings home how integral colour is to substance.

Carol Wyss uncovers the structures that shape us physically and bear witness human frailty.

Symbols made from bones connect us to the earth as origin and destiny.

Thom Bridge Only Similar or Equivalent at Best solo show at Staffordshire Street Studios. Incredible work with light taking the image into realms of physics and geology.

“The degree to which an image is like the world is a question not of fidelity- as a narrative of documentation or technological development would have it – but of equivalence, the role that an image plays in showing in showing, or demonstrating, representing or bringing into view. Equivalence takes priority over resemblance, because the task of the image is not to repeat the world, but to inform it, and by informing it, subtly alter it in turn.” Duncan Wooldridge

Chudamani Clowes in Figure It Out with the Neulinge Collective. Wonderful immediacy as always from Chud that cuts right through to expose the lived experience of those who migrate. Epic journeys bring stories and transformation. The coral is on the move.

Robert Good in Osmosis: experiments in permeability at Espacio Gallery with work that forces an examination of an addiction to media updates, digital clickbait and daily data news dumps. Assaulted by a tsunami of inane questions and disconnected headlines into a brain numbing torpor the need for space to think is made apparent.

A captivating telling of how magic is vital for our well being and should be sought not shunned. Mythosphere is a multi-media theatre production created by Inna Dulerayn presented by Bacchae productions in partnership with Stone Nest at the atmospherically derelict Old Welsh Chapel on Shaftesbury Avenue. Inspired by the life experiences and creativity of Leonora Carrington and the writings of Diana Wynne.

This is a story about magic. The magic that we lost. The magic that is a forgotten part of our nature. The magic that is our right to be divine. But we still sense it. We dream of it. We feel abandoned without it. We keep looking for it all our lives.

Reading:

I am still dipping into The Waves by Virginia Woolf which I was inspired to read after listening to the Art Fictions Podcast with guest artist Hannah Hughes speaking to Fiona Fullerton. I particularly love the interludes as the sun rises over the ocean and begins its journey across the sky. Like too rich chocolate cake the intensity of Woolf’s writing is delicious but can only be taken in small bites.

I have Chantall Powell to thank for flagging up the book The Philosophers’ Secret Fire: A History of the Imagination by Patrick Harpur. A fascinating book taking the view that just because something is not literally so doesn’t mean it isn’t ‘real’. As in Mythosphere the book seeks to rediscover the Otherworld of spirits, gods and daimons which the west has banished to the unconscious mind.

I was so excited to read the following:

“…daimons inhabit another, often subterranean world which fleetingly interacts with ours. They are both material and immaterial, both there and not-there – often small, always elusive shape-shifters whose world is characterized by distortions of time and space and, above all, by an intrinsic uncertainty.

The point is: the words ‘subatomic particles’ could be substituted for ‘daimons’ in the paragraph above without any loss of accuracy. This is not a coincidence – the subatomic realm, like the unconscious, is where the daimons took refuge once they were outcast from their natural habitat.”

As part of The Matter of Objects; Medieval and Renaissance Materiality in Contemporary Conversation project initiated by Queen Mary’s University  I have been paired with a research historian who has provided me with an image of an object that I will then respond to by making a piece of work.

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The object I have been given is a 16th century fall-front cabinet probably made in India for a Portuguese merchant. I wanted to participate in this project because  I am interested in the physical matter of our surroundings and objects and also more intangible things such as aura of place and agency of object. I thought the period would also be interesting as a time when science and religion clashed as being the source of truth.

The project aims to bring together humanities researchers, artists and creative practitioners in discussions around these objects, their historical narratives, and their relevance to our world today. There is going to be an exhibition and launch event where artists and researchers will come together to discuss their processes of deconstruction, interpretation and creation.

It feels a bit like trying to discover an identity beginning just via the purely visual information from a digital image. I had no idea what a fall fronted cabinet would be so before I opened the image I had in my mind something much larger with perhaps some kind of carving that would reflect waterfalls or falling folds of fabric. Recent visits to Sutton House influencing me here with the linenfold wood panels perhaps.

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It was a lovely surprise to open the image and see something so intricate, ornate and compact. I am also influenced in my response by recent exposure to the Elizabethan polymath John Dee and his alchemical interests so all the little secret drawers made me think of what someone like him might have kept locked away.

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The patterns are complex with lots of triangles and geometric shapes mixed with other more organic patterns from nature. The stars and almost elliptical shapes seem to relate the heavens with the flower like patterns of earth.

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It is an intriguing object  with its secret drawers hidden behind a front panel – it would involve a small ritual to lock away and then open up and lay out the front ‘carpet’ to retrieve the precious items from within.

I came across what may be considered another fall front cabinet in the form of a shrine containing samples of metal placed in beeswax, its provenance even more mysterious.

1604 Stine Nielsen Ljungdalh Shrine

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Charlotte Bergson: The Hunters of the Invisible

 

 

Losing sense of what or who is real Charlotte Bergson: The Hunters of the Invisible curated by Stine Nielsen Ljungdahl at Stanley Picker Gallery presents a carefully crafted mythology that has such a coherence of intent it is hard to determine fact from fiction.

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Charlotte Bergson: The Hunters of the Invisible

 

The hexagon is a recurrent motif as is the duality of twins.

Photographs and artefacts are presented as documentation accompanied by an in depth publication The Zone – A Journey Towards the Centre which further bolsters the world of  Charlotte Bergson’s research into The Hunting Society. We are drawn into an illusory world where borders  blur and it is not clear whose identity is real, be it artist, archivist, or a society that once held secrets to an alternative origin of the universe, where alchemy and ritual were practised as heady truths.

This is about origins.

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Trying to work out what is real. Sam Burford’s paper Searching for Traces of the Indexical within Synthetically Rendered Imagery presented at the Shadow Without Object symposium considers ways to understand the relationship in a simulated image between its genesis and its being made visible. The rendering equation introduced into computer graphics in 1986 created a breakthrough by enabling illumination in an image to be made by using the Monte Carlo method of geometric probability borrowed from particle physics theory.

Monte Carlo simulation is a statistical approach which is concerned with experiments employing random numbers. The light playing around generated objects in the image could be made to behave more like real light in its random scattering. These images still did not look real enough but everything changed in 2004 with the release of the Maxwell Render product which claims to render the perfect image. This new product could apply randomness in rendering to an image through an algorithm to add some noise and create what looks like in effect a low res image – this actually appeared more real.

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Photo realistic rendered images are almost impossible to identify as simulated and so to claim credit the author will often attach a proof rendering image. A bit like a birth certificate.

Stan Douglas in The Secret Agent at Victoria Miro uses digital rendering to create a series of large scale urban landscapes.

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Stan Douglas The Second Hotel Vancouver

Unsettling in their clarity of detail and targeted lighting they create a confusion, a bit like having a word on the tip of your tongue, they are almost something. Almost a photograph of something almost like a film set; too sharp to be a memory. Borrowing from film noir tropes we are segued into a similarly stereotypical digital underworld. The six screen feature length installation The Secret Agent operates in the same world of noir subterfuge but instead of digital fakery it is the over dramatic acting, simplistic plot line and raw characterisation where we must suspend our disbelief.

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Stan Douglas The Secret Agent (film still)

Graham Fagan explores the constructed nature of history through the stories myths and fictions that build a contemporary identity.

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Graham Fagan

Pulling at threads of cultural difference but tying them together in a personal experience to engage emotion that doesn’t shy away from acknowledging conflict and injustice.

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Graham Fagan

Drawn through the faded splendour of Palazzo Fontana in Venice by the haunting mix of sea shanty and classical string arrangement of The Slaves Lament we are immersed in a melancholic beauty.  The words attributed to Robert Burns convey the debilitating heartache of being wrenched from home for cold cruelty.

Torn from that lovely shore, and must never see it more; And Alas! I am weary, weary O.

Colonialism is also referenced by C.T. Jasper and Joanna Malinowska in their video production ‘Halka/Haiti 18 48’05″N 72 23’01″w’ taking opera to the tropics.

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C.T. Jasper and Joanna Malinowska Halka/Haiti 18 48’05″N 72 23’01″W

Inspired by Werner Herzog’s character Fitzcarraldo in the 1982 film of that name the artists expose the absurdities and examine the agenda of one culture imposing itself on another. In Herzog’s film, after many great struggles to achieve his goal, European Fitzcarraldo manages to drag a ship over the impeding mountains so he can export rubber, make his fortune and build an opera house in the Amazon basin. He only succeeds in this physical challenge with the help of the local natives. His undoing is in ignoring local culture. When his crew falls asleep, the native chief cuts the rope securing the ship and it floats away down the river. The chief’s actions are to appease the river gods who would be angry to see their waters circumnavigated and their power not respected.

Where do we begin to unravel our origins?  The location of the artists film found at the coordinates of the title ‘Halka/Haiti 18 48’05″N 72 23’01″w’ reflects the complexity and amorphous nature of national identity. It is a Haitian village inhabited by the descendants of Polish soldiers who fought for Haitian independence. Originally sent to put down the slave rebellion in 1802 these soldiers found themselves sympathetic to a local culture under oppression much as had happened in their own homeland and so joined forces with the locals in the Haitian revolution and subsequently made their home here.

Ivan Grubanov’s installation in the Serbian Pavilion United Dead Nations provokes questions about how national identity is created and the symbolism of the flag in that process. In scattered piles across the floor are the discarded flags of states that are no longer in existence since 1895 when the Venice Biennale began.

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Ivan Grubanov United Dead Nations

The list is an obituary of creation, rule and disappearance. Austro-Hungarian Empire (1867-1918),the Ottoman Empire (1299- 1922), Gran Columbia (1819-1930), Tibet (1913-1951), the United Arab Republic (1958- 1971), South Vietnam (1955-1975), the German Democratic Republic (1949-1990), the USSR (1922-1991), Czechoslovakia (1918-1992), and Yugoslavia (1918-2003).

Romanian artist Adrian Ghenie paints emotional images exploring notions of survival and the fictions that define nations by questioning the truth of a collective memory.

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Adrian Ghenie

Far And Few [Between] curated by RCA printmaking alumni Lisa Chang Lee at No Format gallery explores identity from the perspective of Chinese expats now living in the UK.

1603 Few and Far BetweenObserving the projection of the self creates a self consciousness that, like observing the path of an electron, is surely impossible to do without interfering with its trajectory.

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Lisa Chang Lee Habitat-1

 

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Haili Sun Curled Fugue

To question consciousness the works have a strong material presence linking identity to the land and the body and the interactions with the environment that build us.

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Le Guo Koan

How we forge our path and face our own nature is a universal theme. The Mark Bruce Company tackled this through dance in a reworked telling of The Odyssey.

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Mark Bruce Company The Odyssey

Like Pandora’s box it was an explosion of chaos as passions and demons were unleashed on stage leading and tormenting the wayward King on his epic journey, crossing lands beset with monsters and temptations to return home to face a Queen savage from years of despair.  In a vortex of kitsch high drama and inventive to the point of surrealism the story may have been obscured but the message that mortality is beset by challenges, and we must be cautious who we trust – least of all ourselves, remained.

Szilard Cseke’s installation Sustainable Identities is a sterile plastic environment.

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Szilard Cseke Sustainable Identities

Large white balls move silently along plastic tunnels above our heads on predetermined pathways.

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Szilard Cseke Sustainable Identities

Perhaps this is a warning of what our identity might become if we never leave the path to take that epic journey.  Or worse, we have our identity taken from us.

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Patrick McGoohan in The Prisoner 1967