Ecstatic Truth V: The Age of the Absurd

[Image: George Grosz, ‘The Voice of the People is the Voice of God from The Face of the Ruling Class’ (1920)]

Well it has certainly been one crazy year! We planned this symposium to happen in April 2020, but it had to be postponed because of the pandemic. Despite many obstacles, we have decided to go ahead with a series of 3 webinars on Tues 15th – Weds 16th December 2020 in conjunction with our partners Under_the_Radar festival Vienna and the University of the Applied Arts Vienna.

Ecstatic Truth V: The Age of the Absurd

Ecstatic Truth is an annual symposium that explores issues arising from the interface between animation (in all its forms) and documentary (conceptualised very broadly as non-fiction), with a particular interest in the questions raised by experimental and practitioner perspectives. According to Werner Herzog, mere facts constitute an accountant’s reality, but it is the ecstatic truth (a poetic reality) that can capture more faithfully the nuances and depths of human experiences. Given that animation (or manipulated moving image in all of its expanded forms) has the freedom to represent, stylize or reimagine the world, it lends itself well to this aspirational form of documentary filmmaking.

For this, our 5th symposium, held in collaboration with the Under_the_Radar Festival, Vienna, our theme is the Absurd. George Monbiot has described our contemporary age of increasing social and economic inequality, mass extinction and impending climate breakdown as deliberate disaster capitalism in which the ultra-rich benefit as institutions, systems of taxation and democratic processes implode. Everywhere the killer clowns and kleptocrats are taking over, he argues, with ludicrous strongmen dominating nations that would once have laughed them off stage. Absurdity is what they seek in order to take advantage. Chaos becomes the profit multiplier for the disaster capitalism on which they thrive. Every rupture is used to seize more of the assets on which our lives depend.[1]

So how can we imaginatively and creatively respond to these killer clowns and the absurdity of a world being run to continuously make profit regardless of its sustainability? What is there to stand for if the world is perceived as meaningless and how to fight this complacency ? Can we use animation for activism, to re-animate our conscience?  How can we creatively challenge all this doom and gloom, and use our creative practice to navigate and challenge the absurd of our everyday lives? What is the role of humour, surrealism, the historic strategies of the Absurd and Central European Existentialism? Why does animation matter?


[1] George Monbiot, ‘From Trump to Johnson, nationalists are the rise – backed by billionaire oligarchs’, The. Guardian, 26/07/19

Schedule

For more details about the speakers and to get links for the different Webinars: https://2020.under-radar.com/the-age-of-the-absurd. All of the events are free to attend.

DAY 1 Tues 15th December

Webinar 1: The Many Forms of Censorship 
19.00 – 20.30 [Central European time]

  • Andrijana Ruzic: Recurring Elements of Absurd in Several Films of Zagreb School of Animation (1958-1969)
  • Gabriella Jutz: Animating Truth(s): Surveillance, Censorship and Journalistic Ethics
  • Susan Young: Who is, or Was, Ms A

Presentations followed by discussion and Q&A hosted by Birgitta Hosea

DAY2 Weds 16th December

Webinar 2: Subversion and Resistance: Defying Oppressive Structures
10.30 – 12.00 [Central European time]

  • Chunning Guo: Rethinking Injustice in the Age of Absurd: Re-Constructing Prisons as Narrative Spaces through Animated Memories
  • Max Hattler: Abstract Animated Documentary? Moving-Image Abstraction and Meaning-Making in Hong Kong’s Age of the Absurd.
  • Zeynep Akcay: Dance, drawing and repetition: an absurd manifesto about female body

Presentations followed by discussion and Q&A hosted by Birgitta Hosea

Webinar 3: Hidden Force: Celebrating the Invisible Labours
19.00 – 20.30 [Central European time]

  • Orla McHardy: x‘C: Maintenance Animation is a drag: it takes all the fucking time’ 
  • Sally Pearce: Shades of Invisibility. A case study in animation activism.
  • Oliver Gingrich / Sara Choudhrey: AYAH – Sign: Collaborative Digital Art with the Grenfell Communities

Presentations followed by discussion and Q&A hosted by Tereza Stehlikova.

Ecstatic Truth is organised by: Birgitta Hosea, Animation Research Centre, UCA Farnham, UK; Pedro Serrazina, Universidade Lusófona, Lisbon, Portugal; Tereza Stehlikova, CREAM, University of Westminster, UK

With thanks to Under_the_Radar: Barnaby Dicker, Martina Tritthart, Holger Lang

Cartoon Animation: Satire and Subversion – presentations online!

All presentations from this one-day symposium that drew upon the legacy of acclaimed animator, Bob Godfrey, to examine the politics of comedy in cartoon animation are now online and publicly available to view free of charge!

We were also thrilled with this review of the day’s events by Dr Christopher Holliday for the Fantasy Animation blog

Opening Remarks: Tom Lowe / Dr Birgitta Hosea

Keynote 1: Dr Sharon Lockyer, Brunel University London, ‘Contextualizing Comedy Studies’

Panel 1: Performing Satire (whole panel chaired by Professor Paul Ward includes the presentations by Dr Maggie Gray, Pierre Floquet and Kate Jessop plus Q&A)

Dr Maggie Gray, Kingston School of Art, ‘Cartooning and Performance: Cartoon Style Alternative Theatre’

Kate Jessop, University of Brighton, ‘The Politics of Comedy: How has adult animation used satire as a vehicle for feminist cultural commentary’

Pierre Floquet, Bordeaux INP, France, ‘Tex Avery as the Noah Webster of Cartoon’

Panel 2. Absurdity and the Destabilisation of Authority (whole panel chaired by Jim Walker includes presentations by Professor Fran Lloyd, Sarah Tehan and David Wischer plus Q&A)

Sarah Tehan, Belfast School of Art, Ulster University, ‘Captain Phineas May. War Cartoons 1940-1946′

Prof. Fran Lloyd, Kingston School of Art, ‘Humour and the Subversion of Authority. The Animated Internment Drawings of Peter Sachs’

David Wischer, University of Kentucky, USA, ‘Prints in Motion: Amplified Absurdity’

Keynote 2: Steve Bell, The Guardian

Panel 3. Politics and Propaganda from Print to Pixel (whole panel chaired by Dr Birgitta Hosea includes presentations by Professor Paul ward and Dr José L. Valhondo-Crego plus Q&A)

Professor Paul Ward, Arts University Bournemouth, ‘Satire and Subversion in the work of Han Hoogerbrugge’

Dr José L. Valhondo-Crego, Universidad de Extremadura, Spain, ‘Subverting the myths of Francoism in the Spanish satirical press’

Closing Panel

Thanks to the University for the Creative Arts for supporting this event

Animation Research Centre: https://www.uca.ac.uk/research/arc

Synaesthetic Syntax ‘Watch Party’ at IKLEKTIK London

[All of the events from this year’s Expanded Animation strand at Ars Electronica are now available to view online on their You Tube Channel.]

Come together on Sun 13th Sept for a Synaesthetic Syntax ‘Watch Party’ at IKLEKTIK London. At this socially distanced event, a small group of attendees can watch the online symposium from the final day of the Expanded Animation events for Ars Electronica on a big screen together. The presentations explore the interrelationships between audio and animation, between sound and vision. It is hosted by co-organiser Birgitta Hosea of the Animation Research Centre and a few of the UK speakers will be in attendance. This event is supported by the University for the Creative Arts. For more information and to book a free place, go to: https://synaesthetic-syntax-watchparty.eventbrite.co.uk.

Synaesthetic Syntax: Sounding Animation / Visualising Audio is a one-day symposium that brings together animators, musicians, artists, technologists and academics to discuss the interrelationships between audio and animation. Papers cover topics such as synaesthetic connections between sound and image, the role of gesture, improvisation and presence in live performance and the creative use of geometric and algorithmic patterns.

Our Keynote speaker is media artist, Rose Bond, who produces work at the juncture of cinema, animation and experiential design. She will be presenting her latest animated collaboration with the Oregon Symphony Orchestra on a live performance of Luciano Berio’s Sinfonia.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ars Electronica festival is mainly taking place online this year with a number of small events taking place at different associated venues around the world. The Expanded Animation strand will have a series of small, socially distanced Watch Parties in Linz, London and Portland.

Synaesthetic Syntax Symposium Schedule:

 10:15–10:45    Keynote: Rose Bond (CA/US), Sounding Together – Choreographing the Unpredictable

11:00–11:05    Welcome: Birgitta Hosea (UK), Juergen Hagler (AT), Harry Whalley (UK)

 11:05–12:40    Panel I: Hearing Colour Seeing Sound
11:05–11:10    Introduction: Birgitta Hosea (UK)
11:10–11:30    Vicky Smith (UK), Expanded Cinema and Para Animation: More than Audio and Visual
11:30–11:50    Alexander Stublic (DE), Presence and interaction in synaesthetic space
11:50–12:10    Sama Mara (UK), A Hidden Order – Revealing connections between geometry and music through harmony and mathematics
12:10–12:40    Panel Discussion (Chaired by Birgitta Hosea)

12:40–14:00    Break            

14:00–15:30    Panel II: In front of your eyes and ears
14:00–14:05    Introduction: Harry Whalley (UK)
14:05–14:25    Giusy Caruso, Bavo Van Kerrebroeck, Pieter Jan Maes (BE), PIANO PHASE for two pianists in VR
14:25–14:45    Umut Eldem (BE), Towards a “Live Synaesthetic Visualisation”? Considerations in Artistically Visualised Sound
14:45–15:05    Jānis Garančs (LV), Algorithmic conflation and re-configuration of audiovisual space and movement in the series of experiments with financial data audio-visualisations as immersive artworks.
15:05–15:30    Panel Discussion (Chaired by Harry Whalley)

15:30–16:00    Break            

16:00–17:30    Panel III: The Kinaesthetics of Music and Vision
16:00–16:05    Introduction: Juergen Hagler (AT)
16:05–16:25    João Pedro Oliveira (US), Gesture Interaction Between Sound and Image
16:25–16:45    Fred Collopy (US), A hypothesis-based approach to visual synthesizer design
16:45–17:05    Eric Dyer (US) Physical Presence and Material Desire: Eric Dyer’s sculptural and performative animation art practice
17:05–17:30    Panel Discussion (Chaired by Juergen Hagler)

17.30-18.00    Closing Note: Rose Bond (CA/US), Birgitta Hosea (UK), Juergen Hagler (AT),

Further information: 

Expanded Animation events at Ars Electronica: www.expandedanimation.com

Animation Research Centre at UCA: https://www.uca.ac.uk/research/arc

Audio Research Cluster at UCA: https://www.audio-research.com

Research Degrees at UCA: https://www.uca.ac.uk/research/research-degrees

 

 

Animate Projects: Female Figures

On Thursday 2 July at 6pm, artists Jessica Ashman, Anna Bunting-Branch, Birgitta Hosea and Michelle Kranot will present their work and discuss the opportunities and challenges of working with live performance and technology. All four work with animation in their practice and are going beyond the single screen to create immersive worlds where performance is integrated into their work. More info here: https://animateprojects.org/accelerate-sessions-female-figures


[Birgitta Hosea, Virus, (performance/installation, 1996)]

There will be a Q&A led by Animate Projects producer Abigail Addison, where you will have the opportunity to ask questions of the speakers.

Join us on Thursday, 2 July, 6-7pm, on Zoom. The event is free. As spaces are limited please register here: https://bit.ly/3dUy1g3

Sensory Spaces

[Image ©Valkyrie Industries]

Sensory Spaces is a new research project bringing together StoryFutures Immersive Fellow, CTO and co-founder of Valkyrie Industries, Dr Ivan Isakov; UCA’s Dr Birgitta Hosea, Reader in Moving Image and Dr Camille Baker, Reader Interface & Interaction to develop a toolkit for sculpting in virtual reality using Valkyrie Industries cutting-edge haptic gloves.

Work to date indicates that there is importance and value in the use of sensory experiences made possible through newly emerging immersive technologies. This is already well understood in other sectors including clinical interventions in health and wellbeing as well as virtual training in enterprise, engineering and advanced manufacturing. Touch and the use of haptic technologies is increasingly a part of creative storytelling in arts and entertainment as well. Working with existing headsets and haptic tools, this project aims to explore ways in which the public could animate, build or augment their world, or an imagined world, and feel their creation.

As part of our research we are auditing tools, materials and processes used in both traditional sculpture and CGI modelling in order to develop intuitive virtual sculpting tools. Are you working in this area? If so we’d like to hear from you if you model in 3d – either using CGI, VR or even traditional analogue sculptural processes. Please fill out this short survey to share your experience of your tools: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1uJfNfjpHyyesHWYS2FBDAXVZ3E82-rG1SyQ_ARU71ow/edit?usp=sharing

Gender*uck

Art in Flux / National Gallery X

Talk: 6.30-8pm Tues 16th June 2020
Book free ticket: https://www.artinfluxlondon.com/gender_uck.html#
Exhibition: https://www.artinfluxlondon.com/gender_uck_online_exhibition.html

Gender*uck01

Media arts question boundaries and definitions of societal concepts, including notions and conceptions of gender. Gender*uck presents a next generation of artists investigating boundaries of gender concepts. These young artists investigate gender fluid representation in diverse media: Where does technology empower, where does it limit our conceptions of self and other? How can we look beyond binary forms of representations in the context of the binary and digital in new media. In a tech-centric world of media abundance, what roles can artists play in questioning gender norms, gender representations and gender normativity?

Gender*ck02

Paul Kindersley looks at gender normalisations in youtube make-up tutorials. Drucilla Burrell investigates esthetics beyond gender definitions through her fine art photography series. Media artist Birgitta Hosea discusses gender in her animation and performance practice. Paula Callus is presenting her work with Nigerian women artists from an anthropological angle focusing upon the culturally located experiences of gender. James Nasmyth will present a photobooth that subverts gender conceptions. Artist Jake Elwes explores alternative gender representations in the context of machine learning algorithms: What happens when computers try to find patterns of beauty beyond gender concepts and their mathematical confinements. Last but not least, Ro Greengrass’s investigates non-binary concepts through their art and music creation. Talks by Birgitta Hosea, Jake Elwes and Paula Callus will be contextualised by artist demos.

Together these artists discuss limitations, possibilities and the future of technology for art forms beyond gender in the context of New Media – in an evening curated by Art in Flux Co-founder Olive Gingrich.

Ecstatic Truth V: A Journal and A Postponement

Dear All,

we wanted to share the good news that selected papers from Ecstatic Truth IV – Truth of Matter: process and perception in expanded animation practice (2019) have now been published in The International Journal of Film and Media Arts, Vol 4 No 2 and are available here: https://revistas.ulusofona.pt/index.php/ijfma/issue/view/746.

We are looking forward to compiling a new issue of the journal with papers from the next Ecstatic Truth at a future date, however, as it stands, Ecstatic Truth V: The Age of the Absurd will no longer be taking place in Vienna in April 2020 nor will the Under_the_Radar Festival that is hosting it. We were so excited about the quality of the proposals that we received this year and the cross currents and dialogue that could be generated from the programme that we are determined for the event to still go ahead at a later date and are working at finding an alternative time once international travel has normalised.

Best wishes for good health to you and your loved ones

Birgitta Hosea, Pedro Serrazina, Tereza Stehlikova (on behalf of Ecstatic Truth)

Holger Lang (on behalf of Under_the_Radar)

Call for papers: Synaesthetic Syntax

Expanded Animation 2020 –
Synaesthetic Syntax: Sounding Animation / Visualising Audio


[Image from Oregon Symphony Orchestra’s performance of Luciano Berio’s Sinfonia, courtesy of Rose Bond, 2020]

Submission deadline: 17th May 2020
Symposium details: Sunday 13th September 2020, Ars Electronica, Linz, Austria.
Submission link: https://easychair.org/conferences/?conf=ea2020

Faced with the infinite possibilities of faking through digital production, might there be a craving to return to that which is material and sensible: work that is improvised, spontaneous and can be experienced fully with all the senses? A move away from simulated, synthetic perfection to the handcrafted and the imperfect, which evidences the trace of human touch and intimate presence?

This year the Expanded Animation events at Ars Electronica extend into a dialogue about relationships between the senses, in particular the auditory and the visual. What are the rules, principles, and processes that govern correlations between sound and animation? How might these be explored, unpacked and reassembled?

Keynote Speaker


Our Keynote Speaker is media artist, Rose Bond, who produces work at the juncture of cinema, animation and experiential design. She will be presenting her latest animated collaboration with the Oregon Symphony Orchestra on a live performance of Luciano Berio’s Sinfonia.

Submission Guidelines


In response to these themes, we call for academics and artists to propose 20-minute papers that bring the disciplines of music, audio art and animation together from a variety of perspectives: from historical or theoretical analysis to new and surprising practice.

The proposal should include an abstract of no more than 500 words (including references) and a short biography of no more than 200 words.

Submission is via Easy Chair at https://easychair.org/conferences/?conf=ea2020 where you will be prompted to set up a free Easy Chair account.

All selected speakers will be given a free pass to the 2020 Ars Electronica Festival.

List of Topics


Suggested topics include:

Hearing Colour Seeing Sound
Can music become visual? How did pioneers of visual music such as Oskar Fischinger and Mary Ellen Bute translate melody, harmony and rhythm into the form of animation? And can moving drawings become music? Is Oramics, Daphne Oram’s drawn sound machine, a form of animation? How can historic and / or contemporary practice demonstrate synaesthetic syntax?

In front of your eyes and ears
With a perceived disparity between the slow time taken to create animation and the instant time taken to perform music, how can animation be performed live? Can the audio and the visual be combined in improvised performance? How can live, hand scribing or music notation or coding or drawing be used to conjure spontaneous audio-visual performance? What is gained from real-time, instant creation in the present moment?

Rhythmanalysis
Repetition and difference is at the heart of rhythm, at the heart of the algorithm, at the heart of animation, at the heart of lived experience. Rhythm is everywhere. From the natural – visceral, internal rhythms of the body breathing and the heart pumping or the slow changing of the seasons; to the artificial – externally imposed rhythms ordering us through the ticktock of mechanical  clock-time or the ebb and flow of economic cycles. How does rhythm connect audio and animation? What might animation learn from audio and music theory and vice versa?

A Return to the Material
In an age of digital synthesis is there a craving for a return to the material? Do we long for haptic feedback and analogue experience: the touch of guitar strings, the feel of charcoal smearing under the fingers, banging a drum, painting on film? Is this simply a form of nostalgia or might it be thought through in new ways? How can it be brought together in the audio-visual?

Movement and Gesture
Whether performing an instrument or making marks for drawing, the gestural is a core part of human expression. How can kinaesthetic gesture be explored to create new kinds of audio-visual experiences?

Organising Committee


The organisation is a collaboration between:

Venue


The conference will be held as part of Ars Electronica in Linz, Austria.

[Disclaimer – we are operating under the assumption that social distancing will no longer be required in September and ‘normality’ has been restored].

Contact


All questions about submissions should be emailed to <animationresearch@uca.ac.uk>

Animating the Spirited

Animating the Spirited: Journeys and Transformations, Eds. Hu, Yokota, Harvath (University Press of Mississippi, 2020)

Time on your hands for some reading? Out now! This new anthology considers the spiritual side of anime and animation from a range of different traditions with a chapter on using drawn animation as a form of mindful meditation with students written by myself and Graham Barton. Other contributors to the book are Raz Greenberg, Gyongyi Horvath, Tze-yue G. Hu, Yin Ker, M. Javad Khajavi, Richard J. Leskosky, Yuk Lan Ng, Giryung Park, Eileen Anastasia Reynolds, Akiko Sugawa-Shimada, Koji Yamamura, Masao Yokota, and Millie Young

Getting in touch with a spiritual side is a craving many are unable to express or voice, but readers and viewers seek out this desired connection to something greater through animation, cinema, anime, and art. Animating the Spirited: Journeys and Transformations includes a range of explorations of the meanings of the spirited and spiritual in the diverse, dynamic, and polarized creative environment of the twenty-first century. While animation is at the heart of the book, such related subjects as fine art, comics, children’s literature, folklore, religion, and philosophy enrich the discoveries. These interdisciplinary discussions range from theory to practice, within the framework of an ever-changing media landscape. Working on different continents and coming from varying cultural backgrounds, these diverse scholars, artists, curators, and educators demonstrate the insights of the spirited.

Authors also size up new dimensions of mental health and related expressions of human living and interactions. While the book recognizes and acknowledges the particularities of the spirited across cultures, it also highlights its universality, demonstrating how it is being studied, researched, comprehended, expressed, and consumed in various parts of the world.

Edited by Tze-yue  G. Hu, Masao Yokota and Gyongyi Harvath for University Press of Mississippi, this book adds a new rich layer of discourses to the field of Animation Studies. More info here: https://www.upress.state.ms.us/Books/A/Animating-the-Spirited

Beg, Steal and Borrow 25/2-7/3/20

FOGRA39

Beg, Steal and Borrow opens Tuesday (25th) at Bermondsey Project Space, 183 Bermondsey Street, London SE1 3UW. Artists in the show:

Andreas Schmidt, Birgitta Hosea, Gavin Turk, Haley Morris Cafiero, Jessica Voorsanger, John Stezaker, Melinda Gibson, Ori Gersht, Philip Colbert, Simon Patterson, Steffi Klenz, Stuart Hilton, Yinka Shonibare.
Curated by Jean Wainwright

The artists in Beg, Steal and Borrow, remix and inventively recreate, they use what is already out there to fashion new work and raise questions.  Interconnected in their dynamic engagement their work is multi-layered, mining references to other art works or contemporary issues, from art history to archival material, colonial history to online bullying.


Works by Birgitta Hosea that will be showing in the exhibition and include snippets of sound appropriated from classic films:

OutThereintheDark_LethabyGallery-2008Out There in the Dark (2008) Video documentation of my first live performance of this work at Lethaby Gallery, old Central Saint Martins. Possessed by the spirit of Gloria Swanson’s performance in Sunset Boulevard (1950), I become half animator and half animated.

Medium_CarolineKerslake
Medium (2010) Video documentation of my second series of live performances of this work curated by Sarah Sparkes at St John’s Church in which I channel mediated spirits and electronic ectoplasm.


As part of the exhibition  there will be two round table discussions with some of the artists to discuss their work in the show:

29.02.20  2pm to 3pm Followed by drinks

  • Jessica Voorsanger
  • Jean Wainwright
  • Birgitta Hosea
  • Simon Patterson

07.02.20

  • Melinda Gibson
  • Haley Morris-Cafiero
  • Stuart Hilton
  • Philip Colbert
  • Jean Wainwright

Catalogue essay: Performing the memetic’, Birgitta Hosea, 2020

All through Camera Lucida, the French writer Roland Barthes, writing in 1980 in his influential book on photography mourns for his recently departed mother. After her death, alone in the apartment they shared together, he studies all the old photographs of her that he can find – trying to find a particular image that will recapture her for him, trying to find out about the life she led, trying to know her. How disappointing the images seem to him as he searches, how incomplete, for how could these photographs re-animate the dead. These fleeting images preserve a mere shadow of time that has passed. The photograph contains a ‘defeat of time’ (Barthes 2000, p.96) – we see once living beings, but we are reminded that they are mortal, impermanent and that one day they will die. They are removed from their living, breathing, evolving context and embalmed in one pose, mortified for one brief moment of time.

Barthes argues that a photograph is indexical. It is defined through being a trace of that which once was. A photograph is a historical document, a ‘certificate of presence’ (Barthes 2000, p.87) a testament that something once existed. The correlation between truth and the visual has deep seated roots in our culture. Tom Gunning notes the original visual meaning of Eidos, the Greek word for idea (Gunning 1995, p.42), whereas Marina Warner points out that underpinning Western thought comes the deep rooted Christian notion that while magic and illusion are the work of the devil , the truth needs to be witnessed, to be seen with the naked eye. (Warner 2006, p.54) However, because something was once present in front of the camera and now appears in the photographic image, we are reminded that, although it was once true, it is from the past. Now the subject is absent and that time is no longer here.

Contrary to this idea of the documentary ‘truth’ of photography, the photographs and films included in Beg, Steal and Borrow certificate no presence. Rather they are testament and witness to borrowing, to stealing, to fakery. They do not attempt to present historical authenticity. In their re-presentation and re-performance of appropriated images and sounds, these works defy the logic of the indexical. Their reference is not to nature but to culture, not to self but to Other: to the ghosts of pervasive media that saturate our waking lives.

Interviewed in ‘Ghost Dance’ (dir. Ken McMullen, 1983, UK / West Germany, Channel 4 Films), Jacques Derrida is asked if he believes in ghosts. He replies that in the film in which he appears he is the ghost. Furthermore, he says he himself is haunted by ghosts – haunted by the ghost of Marx, the ghost of Freud, the ghost of Kafka, the dematerialised body of their ideas, the disembodied representations of who they once were. The works gathered together in Beg, Steal and Borrow show artists haunted by images and sounds from the mediated networks that surround them. From popular culture – the image of the rock star, the celebrity artist, the cartoon alter-ego, the classic Hollywood movie; from social media – the internet troll, the amateur adventurer; from history – the traumatic archival image, national or colonial symbol; from art history – the canonical work of art, these contemporary memes from Western consumer culture are echoed through the distorting mirror of the artists’ perspective and transmitted to the viewer.

The term ‘meme’ comes from Richard Dawkins book The Selfish Gene (1970) and is taken to mean a ‘unit of culture’ that behaves like a virus. A meme could be a visual symbol, a gesture, an idea, a belief, etc. It is a construct, not a truth and may have little basis in fact or evidence. The meme is hosted in the mind of an individual and then replicated and spread through culture until it is propagated in the minds of others as if it were a plague with a life force of its own. Transmitted via culture, the meme is, therefore, culturally (and historically) specific. Constantly infiltrating our consciousness, memes infect us to the extent that we internalise and embody them through repetitive rituals until they become real and idea becomes flesh.

The repetitive processes by which we form our gender identity from the cultural context we are part of has been theorised by Judith Butler as ‘performativity’. For Butler, performance is an act that defines our very being. The concept comes from her reading of linguistics in which a performative speech act is a phrase that has an audience and performs the act it describes, e.g. “I apologize”, “I bet you”, “I thee wed”, “I come out to you”. Butler develops this idea further. A performative act, in Butler’s terms, is an existential act in which one seeks to be­come that which one enacts. Butler further argues that our sense of self is a fragile construct that must be constantly performed as a role in order to be maintained.

Becoming celebrity, becoming artist, becoming imposter, becoming bully, becoming female, becoming cartoon – many of the works in this show directly engage with the physical re-performance of memes. The artist’s body becomes possessed by the meme: performatively embodying it rather than externalising it as representation.

References

Barthes, R., 2000. Camera Lucida, London: Vintage Classics.

Butler, J., 1995. “Burning Acts, Injurious Speech”. In A. Parker & E. Kosofsky Sedgwick , eds. Performativity and Performance,  London; New York: Routledge, 1995.

Gunning, T., 1995. “Phantom Images and Modern Manifestations: Spirit Photography, Magic Theater, Trick Films, and Photography’s Uncanny.” In P. Petro, ed. Fugitive Images: From Photography to Video. Bloomington and Indiana: Indiana University Press.

Warner, M., 2006. Phantasmagoria: Spirit Visions, Metaphors, and Media in the Twenty-first Century, Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.


Selected shots from the Show

Curator Jean Wainwright setting up

Carriage Clock, Yinka Shonibare, 2019

Carriage Clock, Yinka Shonibare, 2019

Fake Fake Art, Andreas Schmidt, 2012-20

Fake Fake Art, Andreas Schmidt, 2012-20

Photomontage, Melinda Gibson, 2012-20

Mikrokosmos, Simon Patterson, 2019

Whale Watching, Haley Morris-Cafiero, 2018

Gavin Turk with his Pop Head, 2011 (image by Jean Wainwright)

Untitled from the Series Beun, Steffi Klenz, 2015-6

 

 

Andy Warhol (Amanda Root), Jessica Voorsanger, 2010

Video works by Birgitta Hosea and Stuart Hilton

Video works by Birgitta Hosea and Stuart Hilton

Injured Expert (still), Stuart Hilton, 2020

Injured Expert (still), Stuart Hilton, 2020

Injured Expert (still), Stuart Hilton, 2020

Birgitta Hosea with Medium and Out There in the Dark (image by Sandra Louison)