Archive for the ‘Upcoming’ Category

Online Salons

For 2020-21, the Stanley Picker Gallery is hosting a series of Online Salons to facilitate exchange and dialogue between the creative community around the Gallery. 

With COVID-19 changing how we operate as a cultural venue, our digital platforms have become ever more vital as ways of engaging with each other and with our audiences. We hope these gatherings will enhance our role as an “expanded studio”, where creative work is shared during its production, by inviting practitioners to gather online to share their working practice in an informal manner. 

Thurs 26 November 2020 6.30-8pm
with Larry Achiampong, Maeve Brennan & Erika Tan

Thurs 17 December 2020 6.30-8pm
with Dani Admiss, The Decorators & Ben Judd

Thurs 18 March 2021 6.30-8pm
with Oreet Ashery, Nadia Hebson & Judy Rabinowitz Price

Offsite: Yemi Awosile, Ben Kelly, Mike Nelson and Elizabeth Price at Town House

Important: Town House access currently restricted due to COVID-19

Stanley Picker Gallery is curating a series of major art installations by leading contemporary practitioners associated with Kingston University, staged around its spectacular new Town House building, designed by RIBA 2020 Gold Medal winners Grafton Architects.

Kingston School of Art Professors Ben Kelly, Mike Nelson, Elizabeth Price and former Stanley Picker Fellow Yemi Awosile are each presenting ambitious works that will enhance the University’s impressive new public library over the course of 2020-21.

As part of the Kingston Spotlight celebrations, from 19 to 27 September 2020, Town House, The Picker House and Dorich House Museum also participated in the Open House Festival online.

March 2020 – July 2021
Mike Nelson presents a selection of recent works from his acclaimed Tate Britain Commission The Asset Strippers (2019). For this ambitious project, Nelson scoured online auctions of UK based company liquidators, sourcing a range of decommissioned manufacturing machinery and equipment to create a collection of ‘monuments’ to post-WW2 Britain. Professor of Fine Art at Kingston School of Art, Nelson was nominated for the Turner Prize both in 2001 and 2007, and represented Britain at the Venice Biennale in 2011.
As originally conceived and commissioned for the Tate Britain Commission 2019

from Spring 2021
Yemi Awosile is a designer living and working in London. Her work is informed by cultural insights expressed primarily through textiles and printed matter. The broader scope of her practice bridges design and visual arts through social interventions. Recent projects include collaborations with Tent Rotterdam, Tate Gallery, Contemporary And (C&) magazine and the British Council. Her investigation into materials can be seen in the V&A Museum textiles handling collection and she was recently commissioned to produce two permanent public artworks in London due to be completed in 2022. She is an Associate Lecturer at Goldsmiths, University of London teaching BA Design, Studio Practice. She was appointed to the Stanley Picker Fellowships in 2015 and is now a member of the Stanley Picker Gallery & Dorich House Museum Advisory Group.

2021 dates tbc
Elizabeth Price was awarded the prestigious Turner Prize in 2012 and the Contemporary Art Society Annual Award in 2013. A recent major survey exhibition of her work A LONG MEMORY at The Whitworth Manchester, included her Stanley Picker Fellowship commission AT THE HOUSE OF MR X (2007), filmed entirely on location at The Picker House in Kingston. With a major solo presentation of her work staged by Artangel in London in Autumn 2020, Price is creating a new permanent work for Town House to be launched during 2021. She is Professor of Film and Photography at Kingston School of Art.

2021 dates tbc
Ben Kelly is one of the UK’s most influential designers. He is best known for his interior design of the legendary Manchester nightclub The Haçienda, and his work for The Sex Pistols, Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren, Factory Records, 4AD, The Science Museum, The Design Council, the V&A and 180 The Strand. Kelly was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Design from Kingston University in 2000 and an Honorary Fellowship from the Royal College of Art in 2018. He is a Royal Designer for Industry and Professor in Interior Design at Kingston School of Art.
Originally presented by Alex Eagle at 180 The Strand and commissioned by The Store X The Vinyl Factory, 2017

Judy Price

The End of the Sentence presents artist Judy Price’s research on Holloway Women’s Prison and the impact of the criminal justice system on women. It features new work by Price, archival material, and works by other artists and writers invited by Price. The End of a Sentence develops Price’s research-led practice concerned with how artists can produce different ways of thinking about contested sites and engage with collective struggles.

Holloway Women’s Prison (1852-2016) was the largest women’s prison in Western Europe. Its prisoners included “some of the leading freedom fighters of our age, such as the suffragettes, but the vast majority were always imprisoned because of poverty and injustice, addiction and abuse”. Since its closure, Reclaim Holloway has been campaigning for a Women’s Building to be included in the site’s redevelopment. The Women’s Building would be a service hub helping vulnerable women stay out of the criminal justice system, a transformational space for the local community, and a positive legacy for the thousands of women held in HMP Holloway. The End of the Sentence draws on the networks, collaborations and relationships developed by Price through her involvement in Reclaim Holloway. The 10-acre former prison site was purchased by Peabody Trust in 2019, and there is a consultation currently underway to determine how the Women’s Building will be delivered.

The photographs by Price are from her time spent in the decommissioned prison building, which she lives directly behind, and her exploration of the intimate objects from the prison archived by Islington Museum. Phoenix Rising shows the griffin mosaic on the base of the swimming pool in HMP Holloway, which resembles the two stone griffins that stood outside the prison entrance. Photographs of hair and a fire plug offer a close examination of some of the less obvious traces of prison control – in the event of a fire in a cell at HMP Holloway, the small yellow plug was removed and a hose was inserted to blast water into the cell, before allowing the inmate to evacuate.

Examining archival material has played a central role in Price’s research. The architectural models and plans demonstrate the changes in the design of the prison before and after its 1970s redevelopment: how the emphasis shifted from punishment to rehabilitation and how the “intimate and everyday lives of incarcerated women are shaped and controlled by prison architecture”. An archival image photograph taken in 1985 shows two women looking out over the grounds of HMP Holloway from a prison balcony. A vinyl text lists some of the service and support organisations that operated in HMP Holloway at different points in time. This archival material and the new works presented here will form part of a long form film by Price that explores the multiple narratives and redrawn boundaries of Holloway Women’s Prison, and this has been awarded funding by Arts Council England and the Elephant Trust for its completion in the coming year.

There are a number of other artists and writers in the exhibition including two paintings and a game by Erika Flowers, who spent three years in HMP Holloway. The Gym Tree depicts one of the oldest trees in the Prison grounds, which Reclaim Holloway are in the process of applying for a Tree Protection Order to preserve. The climbers and swimmers represent the focus on physical activity which came to characterise prison life following its redevelopment. The Closure of HMP Holloway marked the prison’s closure, and shows land-grabbing politicians, protesters, and the artist on her bike. The Holloway Women’s Building Game playfully references the Suffragettes’ satirical Pank-a-Squith game (1909). While the end-goal for their game was votes for women, Flowers’ game leads the players to the forthcoming Women’s Building.

Time and Time Again – Women in Prison by Nina Ward & Women and Law Collective focuses on the lives of women incarcerated at HMP Holloway through interviews with ex-prisoners about their experiences and their re-assimilation into society. Katrina McPherson’s Symphony documents a five-week contemporary dance project at HMP Holloway involving over 200 women. Burning Salt’s Dirt EP was recorded following Hannah Hull’s artist residency at the Echoes of Holloway research project at Islington Museum in 2018, and draws on testimonies and transcripts from the prison. The colours of the walls, putty pink and pale cream, are taken from a Holloway Palette, devised by Hull at the same time. These two shades reference the colours of the mats on which the women were taught to clean, which are included in the booklet of poetry also on display in the exhibition. Carly Guest & Rachel Seoighe poems are made up of extracts of interviews with two women who were once imprisoned in Holloway. To construct the I-poems, Rachel and Carly selected the ‘I’ statements from the interview transcripts and arranged them, line by line, to form poems.

As part of The End of the Sentence, Price presents a new moving-image work online The Good Enough Mother. Commissioned in collaboration with Dorich House Museum, the piece features a bronze sculpture of a baby by Dora Gordine (1895-1991) acquired for the first Mother and Baby Unit at HMP Holloway in 1948. The soundtrack to the film explores the incarcerated pregnancy, drawing on transcriptions of interviews by midwife Dr Laura Abbott, as well as the work of forensic psychotherapist Pamela Windham Stewart. The script, developed with artist & writer Andrew Conio, is re-voiced by actors from Clean Break, a women’s theatre company that uses theatre to keep the subject of women in prison on the cultural radar and whose members have lived experience of the criminal justice system.

For the duration of the exhibition at Stanley Picker Gallery, the original bronze sculpture by Gordine, on loan from the National Justice Museum, will be on display at Dorich House Museum in Kingston, Gordine’s former studio home.

For further information on how you can contribute to the Peabody consultation for the Women’s Building, please visit: hollowayprisonconsultation.co.uk

To support the Reclaim Holloway campaign, please visit: reclaimholloway.mystrikingly.com

Judy Price

Judy Price is a London-based artist who works in photography, moving image, sound and installation. Her practice involves extensive field research where she often draws on images and sounds from archival sources, as well as from a sustained study of place to explore sites and locations that are interweaved and striated by multiple histories, economies and forces. She is course leader for MA Photography at Kingston School of Art and senior lecturer in BA Moving Image at the University of Brighton. Recent solo exhibitions include Mosaic Rooms, London; Danielle Arnaud Gallery, London; Wingsford Arts, Suffolk; Stiftelsen 3,14 and USF Centre, Bergen, Norway. Group exhibitions and screenings include Delfina Foundation, Imperial War Museum, Barbican, ICA and Whitechapel Gallery. Price is an active member of Reclaim Holloway.

Andrew Conio

Andrew Conio is a writer, artist, and scriptwriter. He has published on a range of subjects including philosophy, architecture, language, artist’s film, institutional critique, creativity and painting and is currently editing the volume, Occupy a People Yet to Come for the Open Humanities Press, and writing a monograph entitled The Anatomy of Money. 

Nina Ward

Nina Ward has had a varied career working as a teacher, actress, filmmaker and lawyer. In 1986, she set up the Women and the Law Collective, which examined and explored the state of the UK legal system. Time and Time again was one of three short films made in 1986, which arose from Nina’s experiences of working as a lawyer and the participants’ experiences of prison. She holds an MA is in Social Anthropology from SOAS, University of London.

Hannah Hull

Hannah is a process-based, socially-engaged artist. She uses text, drawing, film, song, dialogue, and performance intervention. Burning Salt is a collaborative music project headed by Hannah. She is also currently a PhD Candidate (Practice-Based) at Institute for Creative and Cultural Entrepreneurship, Goldsmiths, University of London. She was artist-in-residence at the National Lottery Heritage-funded project Echoes of Holloway at Islington Museum in 2018-19.

Erika Flowers

Erika is an artist and illustrator. ‘Recorded in Art’ was a website initially set up to showcase and provide a platform for Erika’s journey through her prison sentence at HMP Holloway, which you can follow on her Instagram @postcardsfromprisondiary. An active member of Reclaim Holloway, she sits on the board for the Community Plan For Holloway (CPFH) and the Steering Group of the National Criminal Justice Arts Alliance.

Katrina McPherson

Having trained as a dancer and choreographer at Laban, Katrina works in screen dance. Katrina was a director of arts programmes for BBC, Scottish Television and Channel Four and co-director of Goat Media Productions from 2001-2015. Her works are held in collections including Lux Artists’ Moving Image UK and the British Council. Katrina is an Associate Artist at Dance Base in Edinburgh and a Dance North Associate Artist.

Carly Guest & Rachel Seoighe

Dr Carly Guest is a senior lecturer in Sociology at Middlesex University, and Dr Rachel Seoighe is a lecturer in Criminology at the University of Kent. Together they have developed an innovation, emotion-led methodology to explore photographs of the decommissioned Holloway Prison building. Carly and Rachel are active members of Reclaim Holloway.


The title of the exhibition is borrowed from The End of the Sentence: Psychotherapy with Female Offenders, ed. Pamela Windham Stewart and Jessica Collier, Routledge, 2018. The editors have generously given the artist permission to use the title.

Caitlin Davis, Bad Girls: A History of Rebels and Renegades, John Murray (2018)

Laura Abbott, The Incarcerated Pregnancy: An Ethnographic Study of Perinatal Women in English Prisons, unpublished thesis (2018) and Pamela Windham Stewart in various unpublished writing and recorded conversations between Stewart and Price.

Carly Guest & Rachel Seoighe, Familiarity and strangeness: Seeing everyday practices of punishment and resistance in Holloway Prison, Punishment & Society (2019)

We Are Publication

Exhibition Launch: Wednesday 25 September | 6pm-8.30pm

t  h  e      H O L D is an exhibition by the artists’ group We Are Publication (WAP) featuring contributions from over 50 artists. It consists of posters, a soundscape, a hand-woven carpet, and a series of live events all set within an expansive sculptural display structure occupying the gallery space.

The poster is a key production site for WAP and provides an important working-tool for collective visual and conceptual dialogue. Contributed materials are grouped and regrouped, with salient conversations between component parts gradually taking hold. At the Stanley Picker Gallery,this process of contingent reassembling is accentuated through a multiplicity of spliced and overlapped poster material.

The exhibition’s primary structure is formed from steel decking of the type commonly used for theatrical stage and exhibition design; its modular character mirrors WAP’s own combinatory approach to artistic production. Suggestive of a schematic mountain-scape, the structure grips and scales the gallery’s own vertiginous architecture, encouraging metaphoric ascents, descents and transversal movement.

Preoccupations with mountainous landscapes are further taken up by t  h  e      H O L D’s soundscape whose indeterminate atmospheres take their cue from the secluded alpine sanatorium described by Thomas Mann in The Magic Mountain (1924). Individual sonic contributions are here re-imagined as if circulating within the spaces of a remote mountain refuge, where acoustic fragments pass and mingle via a series of rest-cures, breakfasts, luncheons and dinners, eventually to disperse in slumber.  

Part home-furnishing, part-collage,a custom-made hand woven rug was central to WAP’s Notes on a Carpet project between 2017-18. The carpet itself re-alights here, as well as in the form of live-stream video documentation of one of its previous manifestations.

Throughout the duration of the exhibition, t  h  e      H O L D will host a series of live events with key performances taking place on the 6th of November and the 4th of December.

t  h  e      H O L D features contributions from Sadegh Aleahmad, Jonathan Allen, Holly Antrum, Bill Balaskas, Sarah Bennett, George Charman, Rachel Cattle, Jenna Collins, Ilsa Colsell, Craig Cooper, Edward Dorrian, Volker Eichelmann, Abbe Fletcher, Adam Gillam, Keira Greene, Melissa Gordon, Bruce Haines, Felicity Hammond, Mark Harris, Ayano Hattori, John Hughes, James Irwin, Maureen de Jager, Gareth Jones, Simon Josebury, Marianne Keating, Dean Kenning, Lau Chak Kwong, John Lawrence, Bill Leslie, Anna Lucas, Stine Ljungdalh, Katy Macleod, Rachel Mader, Russell Miller, Christian Newby, Louis Nixon, Rupert Norfolk, Tom O’Dea, Alex Pollard, Elizabeth Price, Mónica Rivas VelásquezJoey Ryken, Daniel Shanken, Andrea Stokes, Stephen Sutcliffe, Charlotte Warne Thomas, Andy Tam, Erika Tan, Maryam Tafakory, Mandy Ure, Sebastian Utzni, Roman Vasseur, Mark Aerial Waller, Steven Warwick, Matt Williams

We Are Publication aims to test innovative forms of contemporary art publishing. Originating at Kingston School of Art’s Contemporary Art Research Centre in 2014, the group consists of a changing constituency of current and past PhD candidates, staff members and invited contributors who share a sense of the possibilities inherent in collaborative research. We Are Publication is a shape-shifting laboratory. Its multi-layered publishing experiments relay the group’s interactions and exchanges. In flux and iterative, the group’s configuration as well as its outputs, signal divergent approaches to jointly conducted research.

The group has produced speculative publications in the form of a launch event (ICA, London, 2014), a 5-minute video (Stanley Picker Gallery, 2015), the 60-minute radio broadcast Diagram of an Hour (Resonance FM, London, 2016) and a vinyl record documenting the broadcast event (Curved Pressing, 2017). Between 2017 and 2018 We Are Publication produced Notes on a Carpet, a project that took the shape of a hand woven rug. In 2018 the carpet was presented alongside a series of readings and performances at Five Years, London, Black Tower Projects, London, Focal Point Gallery’s Unit Twenty-One, Southend-on-Sea and the London Art Book Fair, Whitechapel Gallery. Earlier in 2019 We Are Publicationpresented the exhibition We.Are.Cut.Up. at Pratt Institute, New York. The We.Are.Cut.Upsoundscape has been transmitted as part of Radiophrenia, CCA Glasgow in May and will feature on Art Licks Weekend radio station, run in partnership with TACO! and RTM from 17–20th October 2019.

Revital Cohen & Tuur Van Balen

Event: Wed 26 June 7pm Revital Cohen and Tuur Van Balen in conversation with Elizabeth Price and Filipa Ramos. Free entry, no booking required. Click here for details.

The exhausted body of a thoroughbred horse, soil upturned through geopolitical voodoo, blinking lights conjuring irrational thinking, the song of sirens, the demise of a linear future.

Luna Eclipse, Oasis Dream is the culmination of Revital Cohen and Tuur Van Balen’s Stanley Picker Fine Art Fellowship and first act of their long-term project, Nearly Winning, which considers gambling as a contemporary condition. Imagining the exhibition as an organism, the artists bring together sculpture, film, light, sound, scent and text to create a space inspired by the subliminal strategies which induce self-delusion as a way of seeing.

Taking inspiration from Brown and Venturi’s ‘Learning from Las Vegas’ as much as Brian O’Doherty’s ‘Inside the White Cube’ – both examining how spaces are conferred symbolic meaning and structures – the exhibition is arranged as a space in which the lighting, sound, scent and atmosphere all follow subliminal strategies devised by the gambling industry.

A trance-like soundscape hangs in the air, oxygen levels are raised as the lights occasionally break into blinking patterns echoing the ‘siren song’ of a slot machine display (The Dancefloor, 2019). A scent commissioned from a marketing company (The Restraint, 2019) overlays musk with synthetic molecules that mimic human pheromones and the stress-like smell of the Dead Horse Arum Lily.

The new film work The Odds (part 1) brings together racehorses anaesthetised and collapsed on ketamine in a ‘knockdown box’, showgirls from a casino in Macau belonging to the world’s biggest political donor, and Steve Ignorant from anarcho punk band Crass performing in a bingo hall originally built as a cinema designed to look like a church. Produced specifically for a large LED screen, the footage is overlaid with pulsating light formations inspired by Vegas techniques of visual seduction. The interconnections evoked draw logic from apophenia – a psychiatric term describing the tendency to perceive meaning connections between unrelated things or patterns in random information. The resulting assemblage is eternally based on luck, and responsive to the other elements in the space.

Elsewhere is a constellation of objects, a sculpture made from scans of the collapsed bodies of thoroughbred racehorses (The Fall, 2019), casino chips made in China from clay dug out in Jerusalem (The Circuit, 2019), a subtitle track projected on the wall and a glass replica of one of the artists’ eyes (The Opening, 2019), hovering somewhere between commodity and amulet.

Revital Cohen and Tuur Van Balen (b.1981, based in London) work across objects, installation and film that explore process of production as cultural, personal and political practices. Their work was presented at The Renaissance Society, Chicago; Serpentine Cinema, London; Mu.Zee, Ostend; Fotomuseum Winterthur; Para Site, Hong Kong; Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna; Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin; Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo and Congo International Film Festival, Goma. It is part of the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York and M+ Museum, Hong Kong.

Many thanks to Stan Bidston-Casey, Stella Bottai, Oisin Byrne, Chris Cairns, Francine Chan, Naomi Esser, Hannah Fasching, Daniel Fernández Pascual, Adam Gibbons, Fabienne Hess, Yasmin Hepburn, Lily Mccraith, Alexander Pavely, Lucia Pietroiusti, Elizabeth Price, Georgina Rae, Daniel Rothschild, Alon Schwabe, Dani Smith, Pierre Tardif, Jan Van Balen, Jan Wade, Jeremy Waterfield, Steve Williams.

Katrin Plavčak

Free Associated Events Listed Below

Democracy is in a state. This first UK solo exhibition by Vienna-based artist Katrin Plavčak comes at the start of the year that sees the United Kingdom on the verge of a dramatic break with the European Union. The exhibition of new and recent works will conclude with a live event on Friday 29 March, that will feature the musical trio Chicken (Plavčak, Hoffman, Ganglberger) who will play out the final day – or not – of the Brexit process.

Haus der Lose / House of Lots refers to systems of democracy, practiced since ancient Athens, whereby citizens selected by lot – through random sortition, rather than by public election – actively participate in what still function in certain countries as ‘People’s Assemblies’ that are convened to resolve the major issues of the day. The exhibition is partly inspired by the writings of the Belgian author David Van Reybrouck, whose book Against Elections: The Case for Democracy (pub. Die Bezige Bij, 2013) offers a convincing diagnosis for the failures of contemporary democracy, and makes the argument that our reliance upon present forms of electoral systems to provide us with representative leadership, has led to growing voter disillusionment with an increasingly narrow field of career-politicians jockeying for positions in power, across Europe and beyond.

Elections are the fossil fuel of politics…if we don’t urgently reconsider the nature of our democratic fuel, a huge systemic crisis threatens. If we obstinately continue to hold onto the electoral process at a time of economic malaise, inflammatory media and rapidly changing culture, we will be almost willfully undermining the democratic process.” from Against Elections: The Case for Democracy by David Van Reybrouck.

Directly engaged within this broad political context, Plavčak works with a sense of both urgency and optimism, offering through her paintings personal visual responses to current events as they occur. As Silvia Eibmayr comments on the artist’s work: “She has a keen sense of the bizarre dystopian and barbaric aberrations that characterize current world events, and without becoming cynical she finds poignant symbolisations for prevalent fears, traumas, aggressions, for malice, helplessness or repression, but also for empathy and political commitment, to specific agendas or individuals” (from On the Mirror of Twilight, Katrin Plavčak, pub. Snoeck 2017).

For Haus der Lose / House of Lots the artist paints a contemporary political landscape of carnivalesque horror; a world populated by a cast of grotesquely humorous characters, including real-life politicians, ‘sci-fi’ aliens, refugees, anthropomorphic objects, maps and cartoon beasts. Plavčak, nonetheless, remains critically constructive in her own political beliefs: “The European Union is a unique concept, which started as an important peace project. Yet the European Council seems, more and more, to be the institution which is working against the integration of a unified Europe, unable to find collective answers to the problems the world is facing, like migration, climate change and environmental pollution, digitalisation and the changing working environment. There is an urgent need to come up with solutions for the whole European continent and, by extension, what Buckminster Fuller called our spaceship earth.

Over the course of the exhibition, in response to ongoing events in the political landscape, the Gallery will be publishing an online dialogue of correspondence between Katrin Plavčak and Dr. Egle Rindzeviciute (Kingston University), with a live discussion on Wednesday 27 February 2019 (see below).

Katrin Plavčak (b.1970) is an Austrian painter and musician based in Vienna. She studied painting with Sue Williams at The Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna, and holds a Diploma from The Social Academy, Vienna. Plavčak has shown at many international galleries and institutions including: the Secession Vienna; Kunsthalle Wien; Deutsche Bank Kunsthalle, Berlin; Kunsthalle Basel; Galerie Mezzanin; Geneva; Marc LeBlanc Gallery, Chicago; Dispari & Dispari, Berlin & Reggio Emilia. From 2012-14 she formed part of the feminist artist group ff and, together with Caro Bittermann and Claudia Zweifel, runs the website The History of Painted Revisited; a growing archive of female painters from art history. Plavčak performs with M.O.G, a sewing machine improvistation duo with Swedish artist Ulrika Segerberg, and founded the band Chicken in 2018 with Nicholas Hoffman (vocals, bass) and Hari Ganglberger (drums), Katrin Plavčak (vocals, guitar). Chicken are currently recording their debut album in collaboration with the Visconti Studio at Kingston University.

Free Associated Events at the Stanley Picker Gallery:

Wed 16 Jan 6-8.30pm: Exhibition Launch / All Welcome

Wed 27 Feb 7pm: Katrin Plavčak in conversation with Dr. Egle Rindzeviciute and Prof. Ilaria Favretto (Kingston University). Drinks from 6pm / All Welcome

Fri 29 Mar 6.30-9pm: Live set by Chicken (Plavčak, Hoffman, Ganglberger) and DJ set by Stanley Picker Fellow Yuri Suzuki. Staged at the Stanley Picker Gallery, in collaboration with the Visconti Studio (Kingston University) / All Welcome

Also: Accompanying the exhibition, Kingston University’s Dorich House Museum is displaying Katrin Plavčak’s painting Is She a Lady? (2015) – a fictional group portrait of historical European women painters. Dorich House Museum is the former studio-home of sculptor Dora Gordine (1895-1991), and now operates as a specialist centre supporting women creative practitioners and thinkers. Special thanks to Marlene Haring & Anthony Auerbach, London, for the generous loan.

Many thanks to: Charlotte Cullinan and Jeanine Richards; Marlene Haring and Anthony Auerbach; Michael Gatt and Pol Jesperson, Liam Guest, Louis Peckham, Ben Williams and Samuel Johnson at Visconti Studio (Kingston University); Ilaria Favretto and Egle Rindzeviciute.

The following email dialogue between artist Katrin Plavčak and Dr. Egle Rindzeviciute (Kingston University) is published below online, as it develops over the course of the exhibition. A live discussion between Katrin Plavčak, Dr. Egle Rindzeviciute and Prof. Ilaria Favretto (Kingston University) takes place at the Stanley Picker Gallery on Wed 27 Feb from 7pm / All Welcome. 

22.01.2019:

Dear Katrin,

Congratulations on the opening of Haus der Lose / House of Lots at the Stanley Picker Gallery.

I am very keen to hear more about the background of this project – what led you to choose this topic?

Also, I was wondering, in what ways can painting as a form of “high culture” participate in the debates on the character and state of liberal democracies?

With kind regards,

Egle

25.01.2019:

Dear Egle,

A year ago I moved back to Vienna after 15 years living in Berlin. One reason why I went to Berlin in 2002 was that the right wing party of Austria (FPÖ) got so many votes by the people living and allowed to vote in Austria, that they could establish a coalition with the conservatives (ÖVP), and then formed a centre-right government. Even though the ÖVP didn’t get the most votes (the social democrats won the elections), they landed a coup with building a coalition with the right wing party (W.Schüssel / J.Haider). For me, it was unbelievable that in a country which was also responsible for the Holocaust, one third of the population was voting again for a party (FPÖ) with a racist and discriminating ideology that is the home of the ‘fraternities’ which, via the FPÖ, have been able to get into Parliament. These fraternities are the home of the Nazis in Austria, and the relationship of the fraternities and the right wing party FPÖ is very close.

Now, 15 years later, Austria again has a centre-right government. People seem to forget how quickly this coalition of a centre-right government enriched itself the last time with the money from taxpayers, and how their criminal activities are still keeping the courts busy in Austria today.

S.Kurz (ÖVP) changed the colour of the conservative party from black to turquoise and again, like Schüssel, chose a coalition with the right wing party FPÖ (H.C.Strache) to gain power. Since this government has been in charge, they immediately changed laws, rebuilding the state institutions, reversing the aims of progressive education, cutting rights for foreigners, and pushing the borders of language in a direction which should have been forgotten a long time ago.

The Austrian composer Georg Friedrich Haas explains well, in his text ‘Monolog für Graz‘ 2018 (a piece he wrote for the Musikprotokoll), how the Nazi ideology survived in Austria and how the parties have managed to put their people in places of power.

So this is the background of the country I happen to live in now, and the passport I carry. I consider myself a citizen of Europe, and every Thursday in Vienna there is a big public demonstration against this government, organised by great people of different occupations and backgrounds.

All over Europe right-wing ideologies are gaining power; or to be more precise, nationalism in the form of right-wing populism. I was looking for authors with critical minds and with answers to what could cause such a drift to the right of so many citizens of the European Union. I came across the writer David van Reybrouck and his book ‘For a Different Populism’, where he describes how more and more people in Western societies, of lower education and income, are rejecting taking part in voting as a democratic process or follow right-wing populists, as they no longer see themselves represented by their parliaments.

This led me into the topic of how democracies are legitimized, and how the democratic process has changed over its long period of existence. In his book ‘Against Elections’ Van Reybrouck suggests some kind of lottery as an additional tool for voting and find a democratic way to translate the will of citizens into laws. He talks about deliberative democracy to develop public discourse about all political topics. In this way citizens are provided with direct access to democratic participation and this returns their faith in the system.

(ER: Also, I was wondering, in what ways can painting as a form of “high culture” participate in the debates on the character and state of liberal democracies?)

I hope that painting doesn’t float away up in the skies, far away from practical political developments. I think one of the most noble, and therefore ‘high’, cultural achievements of our society is the political construction of a democracy. It assures citizens that they are equal, that they have the right to vote, and be a part of the process of defining their own government.

I have always thought of painting as a form of communication, as information, and in this sense it is able to talk about political circumstances. And it always did. A long list of painters over the centuries have produced images of the contemporary ‘powerhouses’ of their times – in part because they were the ones paying for it – and painting big political events. If we think of Goya, he painted the Spanish royal family in a very ironic way, and also the cruelties of war, which can be easily read as social critique. Painting is deeply connected with capital and the political powers in charge.

Painting is a tool for me to deal with topics I am concerned with, to help me think about them, and for me to provide quick reactions to political developments and express the status quo.

Friendly greetings,

Katrin

28.01.2019:

Dear Katrin,

You mentioned that you paint in response to the events happening around you, reflecting on the issues that are presented as the most burning ones on the political agenda. One thing that struck me particularly when seeing your exhibition was the bright colours and the vivid, painterly quality of your works. There is, I think, a very bright energy pulsing from your canvases. How do you make aesthetic choices when approaching such charged topics as the failures of the political systems?

With kind regards,

Egle

05.02.2019:

Dear Egle,

Painting is a method to think about certain topics for me. I guess it’s all about charging a work, during the painting process, with content and form. I try to understand something, and while painting it, I can get very close to the subject matter. I guess it’s also a way for me to digest politics.

Colour relationships are very complicated. Like Bridget Riley has stated, as soon you change one parameter of one particular colour, the whole enterprise starts moving. Also, colours make a strong physical impression on me, and hopefully to other observers, especially in the presence of bigger paintings, which I believe not only happens through the eyes but also through the body, where colours talk to my cells directly, like music.

In the painting The European Republic (The Lady Facing Afrika), I chose many different shades of blue – Paris Blue, Prussian Blue, Coelin Blue, Indigo – to paint one woman as a personification of Europe. There are many ways to describe and understand the same situation, so by representing Europe as a person, it is perhaps possible to develop an emotional response towards her; to try to fall in love with an idea, as Ulrike Guerot puts it in her book ‘Why Europe Should be a Republic; A Political Utopia’ (Piper 2017). Chantal Mouffe also talks to my understanding of this idea, when she points out that art could play an important role in establishing a left populism, because art is able to create affects or emotions:

“This is the big power which lies within art; the ability to show us things in a different light and to make us realise new possibilities.” Chantal Mouffe ‘For a Left Populism’ (Edition Suhrkamp, 2018).

In my painting, Europe is a woman who is hoping that the progress of emancipation and feminism will create new solutions for a European Republic, not dominated by one nation pursuing hegemonial power. One human body; the arm, the leg, the head and the heart all need to work together. Every part on its own is very specific – like the different regions of Europe – but they would have a sad and isolated existence on their own.

A very important role that Europe has to define anew, is its relationship with Africa, and the historical responsibilities we have towards our neighbouring continent. We have to find a solution which is not a concrete wall with barbed wire, or a sea where people who try to escape from no future, face death. We are obliged to deal, in a human way, with refugees coming to us from this continent, and in my painting Europe is unsure how to face Africa, and she looks, afraid, into the eyes of the black continent, which is so close on the map, yet so far away in the hearts and heads of European people. Colonialism then and exploitation now; African workers held like slaves in Southern Europe today, and nations, like France, not acknowledging the population of their former colonies as citizens of their own.

With friendly greetings,

Katrin

11.02.2019:

Dear Katrin,

Thank you for your thoughtful and stimulating response, and apologies for my delayed answer.

I was, coincidentally, travelling in Brussels, visiting the House of European History among other things. This museum is indeed trying to engage with the history of Europe as a totality of the nation states that comprise it. The exposition starts with the myth of Europa and ends at a hall, situated on the top floor, which already contains a display of Brexit voting ballots and campaign materials for both Leave and Remain. There is also an exhibit of safety vests, to acknowledge the ongoing crisis of refugees crossing the Mediterranean Sea.

While the museum speaks through objects arranged into illustrative sequence, to flesh out narratives scripted by historians, your paintings attack all senses and taking the command of the viewer by their sheer size, as you said earlier.

This made me think about the invisible, but important, role of technology, that determines the way in which we sort our information and images. I do not remember the last time I printed out a photograph, let alone a large size print. Images come to me in a screen size, and screens are compact, small and portable; perhaps like stereotypical judgements that are quickly and conveniently produced by the mind. A large size painting demands one to pause and to physically orient oneself in the space. Not so with the screen.

I heard that you reflected on social media by painting a few pieces that were intentionally smaller in size, in comparison to your large paintings not to the size of my laptop screen. I would love to hear more about the idea behind these paintings and how they originated.

With kind regards,

Egle

15.02.2019:

Dear Egle,

That’s a beautiful comment you make here, about the difference of perception between paintings and photographs, in delivering political content. It has to do with the time it takes to look at a painting and the physical presence of the image-object. You can’t scroll over a painting (yet!). The size, plus the time it takes the observer to look at an image and think about it, makes a big difference.

We still tend to believe that if we see a photograph we are confronted with facts and reality. A painting doesn’t promise to talk about truth and reality. Here we are in the realm of paint. As a viewer of a painting you are always aware that you look at the opinion of a painter – as long this painter is not called e-David (AI).

The fact is, we live in times of fake realities. Well-founded journalism is so important for democracy, but needs time for research and investigation. Journalists need to get paid well and need the support of a free society. Increasingly, citizens are getting information from Facebook and such, misinterpreting this for truthful information, and getting more easily manipulated.

I am not on Facebook, but I do use Instagram. When I started posting things, I got so curious about reactions; it’s such a strong trigger, very human. What a weird mixture of curiosity, advertisement, public and private. And you give away a lot of information of yourself and your habits, even if you try using social media as a publicity tool for exhibitions and music-shows. I started feeling very uncomfortable about it.

Actually, just one of these three small paintings in the exhibition is called Social Media – a more or less stressed-out face trying to idealize itself with tiny hands. The other two are called Pepsi and Lean On. If you want, you can read these three together as function-images when looking at Instagram: self-manifestation, desire for human closeness and product-placement.

Our data gets collected, processed and analysed, and these masses of data are not sorted out by humans, but by algorithms. I believe that these tons of data are also used by self-learning algorithms, to understand how humans work, how we think and how we feel. I think they want to learn how our emotions are functioning. In the present, social media is used to influence political decisions and voting habits of the citizens. I guess in the future data-information will deliver a tranparent image of humankind for real and virtual machines.

Friendly greetings,

Katrin

19.02.2019:

Dear Katrin,

Thank you for your thoughts. I am typing this in a hushed reading room at the Cambridge University Library, a beautiful place where a few old-fashioned card catalogues are kept in the corridors. However, the algorithms are everywhere and need to be reckoned with. The University of Cambridge hosts the Future Intelligence Institute, which gathers many scholars from what could be considered as traditional fields of humanities and social sciences to re-think the meanings of human and non-human agency, the history of intelligence assessing the political impacts of the increasingly effective algorithmic technology.

At Kingston University, Prof Felicity Colman led an important research project that investigated what she and her colleagues described as “the algorithmic condition”. Drawing on both Hannah Arendt and Francois Lyotard, Colman and her team assessed the origins of the algorithmic condition and probed the ways in which this ever expanding digital reality could be subject to ethical judgments and regulations. Their wise suggestion is to develop a basis of “ethical environment” – a social and material system of awareness of the algorithmic condition itself. Such an ethical environment could emerge as the result of education, but also of a “societal ethos”. It strikes me that there is an important role for the art to play in the development of a societal ethos for our politically disturbed and disturbing algorithmic condition.

This said, the relative feeling of containment that paper card catalogues and neat rows of books communicate is a deceptive one. History is only too full of examples of mass violence, the implementation of which was mediated by lists of names printed on paper…

The link to the report is here: https://ethicsofcoding.wordpr ess.com/2018/02/20/ethics-of-coding-the-algorithmic-condition/

With kind regards,

Egle

23.02.2019:

Dear Egle,

Yes that’s indeed a very uncanny aspect, that machine learning is being used to deploy bots on social media (social bots) so that can build misplaced trust, harvest personal information, and spread propaganda; how Dr. Thomas King, of the Digital Ethics Lab at the Oxford Internet Institute, writes in the report you sent. And that these machine learning techniques, which can be beneficial to society, in the fields of crime prevention and medicine, are being used to harm the infosphere. So the first big step is to become aware of the algorithmic condition we are living in and then ascertain and implement ethical regulations.

Maybe another reason to think of extending our democratic tools in the direction David van Reybrouck is suggesting in his book Against Elections. He is arguing for a stronger participation of citizens in democratic procedures, which also means a deeper involvement in the knowledge of topics of politics and society. He writes about finding the opinion of the population not only through elections, because they can be manipulated by misinformation, but also by sortition or election through lot.

Deliberate democracy means more participation of the citizen, and if we as citizens are more involved in the act of naming and working on topics which have to get organised by the state, then these decisions will be backed much better by the population.

How do you think that art could play a role in the development of a societal ethos for our politically disturbed and disturbing algorithmic condition, as you put it? Do you think art could create more awareness for this problematic development? Through creating images which are circulating not in the digital but in the real world? Lots of places where art is shown are rather elitist and just a small segment of the society dares to step into a gallery or contemporary art institution. Also, many artists don’t want their art to be seen as a tool for propaganda, and don’t want to get labelled as political artists. Making art doesn’t make you an ethical person. I think its crucial nowadays, where right-wing populism is growing like a disease everywhere, that politics has to construct a frontier between ‘us and them’ like Chantal Mouffe says, and that its necessary in these critical times to point out that our opponents are not the refugees coming in but the oligarchy.

I think a very important human strength for the future will be fantasy and resultant innovation. This could be a role for artists, who are able to imagine things and, as a consequence, invent things. I guess algorithms collect information, compare it and build variations. Also humour is a big human benefit, which machines, I guess, are not capable of.

But maybe machines don’t need humour, because they don’t have taboos and suppressed memories. Yet.

Friendly greetings,

Katrin

To be continued…