Exhibition | Late Barbarians

Posted in today in light of the 18th century by Editor on January 26, 2014

Now on at London’s Gasworks:

Late Barbarians
Gasworks, London, 24 January — 9 March 2014

Matts Leiderstam, After Image (Portrait of a Gentleman), 2010

Matts Leiderstam, After Image (Portrait of a Gentleman), 2010

Gasworks presents the group exhibition Late Barbarians, which includes video, photography, and sculpture by Juan Downey, Lili Dujourie, Sidsel Meineche Hansen, Matts Leiderstam, and Chris Marker.

Focusing on the notion of corporeal memory, the exhibition explores how shifting social codes and cultural values have been embodied in historical Western European art and architecture. The exhibition takes its title from an expression by German sociologist Norbert Elias, which suggests that our future descendants may eventually consider us to have lived during an extended medieval period, implying that we share far greater affinities with our Barbarian ancestors than we might like to think. Similarly, the works on show question linear interpretations of history, invoking a present that is haunted by the gestures of our ancestors.

Paying particular attention to art historical representations of the body, works range from photographs that propose a queer re-reading of the gestures depicted in Renaissance paintings (Matts Leiderstam) to abstract, single-take “dances to camera” that attempt to divorce particular habits of the body from their entrenched social connotations (Lili Dujourie) and a virtual exhibition tour that takes place in the online world of Second Life (Chris Marker). In addition, Juan Downey’s video essay The Looking Glass (1981) decodes the iconography of the mirror in well-known artworks by Velázquez, Holbein and Picasso, and a new commission by Sidsel Meineche Hansen entitled His Head (2013–) comprises a clay sculpture and symposium that together examine the human head, separate from the body, as a symbol of patriarchy and power.

Late Barbarians is the second exhibition of The Civilising Process, a yearlong programme of exhibitions and events at Gasworks inspired by Elias’ eponymous 1939 book, which looks at the development of the tastes, manners and sensibilities of Western Europeans since the Middle Ages. Between October 2013 and November 2014 Gasworks is working with invited artists, designers, curators and researchers to tackle a wide range of issues raised by this book in an attempt to understand their relevance for contemporary debates and practices.

The Civilising Process comprises five exhibitions, a programme of interdisciplinary events, contributions to Gasworks’ online platform Pipeline, and a printed publication.

155 Vauxhall Street
London SE11 5RH United Kingdom

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