Till 14 Dec – LET'S TAKE BACK OUR SPACE @ Focal Point
Let’s Take Back Our Space, curated by Mike Sperlinger includes works by Robert Morris, Marianne Wex and Cerith Wyn Evans. Body language is, as the late Big Brother has taught us, inescapable. How we read, record, imitate and interpret gestures informs everything about our daily lives, from culture and convention to our most ‘natural’ and intimate relationships. ‘Let’s Take Back Our Space’ brings together the work of three artists – Robert Morris, Marianne Wex and Cerith Wyn Evans – who, in their radically different ways, explore body language as something at once urgent and inherently ambiguous.
The show takes its title from an encyclopaedic photographic project by the German artist Marianne Wex. Over several years in the mid-1970s Wex, who had originally been a painter, built up an extraordinary archive of thousands of images of people, which she began to categorise according to their body language. Mixing her own street photographs with images clipped from newspapers and advertisements, she cumulatively catalogued the way that male and female identities were formed and reinforced through everyday gestures; the way, as she put it, that they ‘took up space’.
Wex’s photographic project is accompanied by two other works in the exhibition. The first is Robert Morris’s 21.3 (1964); originally a performance made by the artist while he was studying and teaching art history in New York, the action was subsequently re-staged with an actor and filmed by Babette Mangolte in 1994. In the work, the performer lip-synchs a famous art history lecture by Erwin Panofsky called ‘Studies in Iconology’ from 1939, which discusses the different levels of how we understand the everyday gesture of someone raising their hat – a typical greeting of the era, which might now seem quaint.
The second accompanying moving image work is Cerith Wyn Evans’s Kim Wilde Audition Tapes (1996), which, we are told, consists of footage the artist discovered in a skip in Soho. Male models audition in a studio for a role in a pop video, responding to the off-screen director’s prompts to act naturally with excruciating self-consciousness. Under the cold eye of the camera, body language and male sexuality are manufactured for commercial ends.
Listen to Marianne Wex talking about her project HERE
The exhibition is open until 14 December 2009.
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