ST PAUL St Gallery One and Two
Opening 5:30pm 11 June
12 June – 17 July 2015
Speaking, reading, writing, research: each may be understood as a gesture of self-definition, as part of an unfolding autobiographical narrative. The things we talked about looks at a series of models of narration, reading and dialogue, and at the relationships and subjectivities and embedded in these.
The exhibition takes shape around a film by Canadian artist Moyra Davey. Les Goddesses (2011) centres on the story of early feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, her daughters and lovers. Wollstonecraft was an eighteenth-century British writer, philosopher, an advocate of women's rights, and the mother of Frankenstein’s author, Mary Shelley. As the film progresses, narrative associations are drawn between their lives and those of the artist’s sisters, and Davey diverges into anecdotes of her own. Pacing her apartment with a handheld recorder, the artist narrates the story; occasionally subtitles interrupt, correcting the accuracy of her account.
Dorine van Meel’s At least the oranges come from Sicily (2015) draws on multiple voices – written, visual, spoken – within the space of a text-based film. The experience is as much about listening as it is about looking. The artist writes, ‘The autobiography is fiction because it can only be written once’, and this idea underscores the fleeting anecdotes which populate the work. Reading here becomes a kind of correspondence, a covenant with a reader, or with the future. Lyn Hejinian, a founder of the 1970s Language Movement writes, ‘Language makes tracks’; in the gradually unfurling, cut-up form of van Meel’s At least the oranges come from Sicily this is materialised.
Emphasising written text and recorded exchange, the exhibition proposes that human relationships may be defined by absences as much as they are by presence. Marie Shannon’s The Aachen Faxes (2011) records the faxed exchanges between Shannon and her partner, Julian Dasher, during a period when Dashper was on residency in Aachen, Germany, framing the difficulty, and the unexpected eloquence of communication across distance, and the mediating role of technology.
Ruth Buchanan’s An image of a solid (2012) is reconfigured for the exhibition, the semi-opaque suspended fabric serving as an alternative grammar or architecture for the space. The work enacts an editorial role, offers a re-reading of the space on terms which are material, durational, and which ask for a different register of attentiveness. Alicia Frankovich’s sculpture Lover (2011) is both presence and absence, its neon border marking out a form which is in fact only a line suspended, empty as a garment.
Opening night will include a one-off performance by artist collaborative lightreading (Sonya Lacey and Sarah Rose). Private Hire deploys a luxury car for its promise of privacy and material decadence; readings held inside the car draw on a legal case involving Rihanna and David LaChapelle. In the work self-definition is manifested as intellectual property, and the possibility of ‘right and wrong’ reading, quotation, and exchange, comes into discussion.
A special commissioned edition from Hue & Cry Journal occupies the gallery’s front window space: an edited conversation between Ruth Buchanan and Sarah Jane Barnett. A publication, Reading, Walking, Writing (co-edited by Abby Cunnane, ST PAUL St Gallery and Melanie Oliver, The Physics Room), will also be launched during the exhibition.