Exhibitions

Superconductor

Exhibition runs 14th January – 17th February 2012

Opening hours 12 – 6pm Monday – Saturday

Evening preview Friday 13th January 6pm

Matthew Donnelly, Ben Jeans Houghton, Ove Kvavik, Edwin Li, Kate Liston, Iris Priest

The atomic individualism of patriarchy destroys much of the fabric of the human community. Such a damaged community is incapable of understanding the needs of its own members, much less of the nonhuman world.

Michael Zimmerman

The collective task of “reenchanting” our whole culture is, as I see it, one of the crucial tasks of our time…

Suzi Gablik

In primeval times and tribal societies the stratification of art from life may not have always been so absolute. The creation of images and artefacts has been, throughout history, a necessary aspect of everyday life for many cultures; whether as a channel to communicate between other realms, as an agent for the divination of knowledge, for healing individuals and the wider community, or as an act of dedication to appease the spirit realms.

Superconductor seeks to usurp the antiquated paradigm of the autonomous artist loner, practising at the periphery of society. Instead the show suggests that – like the shaman of primitive cultures who connected communities and who traversed the Axis Mundi between the divine and earthly worlds – the artist of today is central for reinvesting everyday life with magic, mystery and meaning from Ben Jeans Houghton’s dream like and labyrinthine films to Kate Liston ‘s evocation of the magical sensation of synchronicity.

Superconductor proposes that, rather than extraneous to everyday life, art is essential for connecting us imaginatively to the world in which we live and to one another. The show departs from Suzi Gablik’s call for the imperative liberation of art from the disenchantment of materialism and the technocratic culture of disconnection and instead posits that Art is a lens through which we examine our own society and innate assumptions or prejudices, a mirror which reflects the myriad of wonderful and terrible aspects of life – as in Edwin Li’s dystopic vision of future society – but also a locus for the exchange of ideas, participation and cultural democracy.

Whilst in recent years Democracy has become a dirty word and an illusive (often contradictory) concept Superconductor aims to reclaim the original meaning of democracy through work and events which are accessible, decentralised and which offer a platform of direct representation for different groups and communities. From open discussions on “The Role of the Artist in Society” to Occupy Newcastles’ workshop on “Direct Democracy”  Superconductor is an invitation for anyone and everyone to engage in the critical dialogue surrounding art supported by the wider programme of events and discussions within the gallery space itself.

The artists involved in Superconductor offer various new ways of experiencing and engaging with the world as epitomised in the uncertain destabilising of historical ‘fact’ stirred by Ove Kvavik’s work Beyond the Limits of Control. Overall Superconductor underlines the social significance of art production, reception and effect. The show emphasises the unity between art and life as a means to create one’s own cultural conditions and to affect social change. Both through the works in the show and through the programme of satellite activities, the exhibition becomes a hub for the generation and cross-pollination of new ideas and approaches to contemporary life and interaction. Superconductorinvites engagement, contemplation and open-endedness over detachment, entertainment and the unequivocal.

The Wonders of the Invisible World

Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art – Sunderland, UK
Preview: Wednesday 13 July 6:00 – 8:00pm
Part I: 14 July – 8 October 2011

Artists in part I:
Charles Leadbeater, The International Necronautical Society, Peter Doig, Susan Hiller, Jane & Louise Wilson, Clare Strand, Siobhan Hapaska, Kerry Stewart, Catherine Payton, Matthew Donnelly, Nicolaas Hartsoeker, Ove Kvavik, Nils Guadagnin, Dunja Herzog, Victoria Skogsberg, Anna McCarthy, Chris Cornish

“This is a call to revolution… We need to escape the straightjacket of the Modernist worldview”.
H.R.H. Prince of Wales, ‘Harmony: A New Way of Looking at the World’, 2010

“Artists are Gnostics: they practice things the priests think died out years ago.”  Hugo Ball, 1917

‘The Wonders…’ is an exhibition in two parts. It brings together a new generation of artists across Europe who have taken an abiding interest in the areas of human experience that are beyond ready explanation or beyond plain sight. Here, artists from London and Glasgow to Oslo and Berlin attempt to bring to sight that which by definition cannot be seen. The two exhibitions bring together artists who explore ideas that transcend mere instrumental reason.

The works echo the Prince of Wales’ recent call to “revolution” in our worldview – a call to see the universe holistically rather than in baldly scientific terms. Put another way, the artists make visible what one renowned public figure recently called “known unknowns” and “unknown unknowns”. The artists here have coaxed objects to levitate, facilitated autosuggestion, photographed apparitions, or foretold the future. Though echoing pre-scientific ideas, their approaches are curiously timely, and might collectively be described as ones of ‘irrational exuberance’. For many of the artists, their works are allegories for the workings of an intangible and mysterious world propelled by illusions and suspension of disbelief: those of the economic marketplace. As here, much of the material world seems to defy the laws of gravity, as though objects were suspended ‘in a bubble’, or else held aloft by a so-called ‘invisible hand’.

The exhibition takes its title from one of the strangest works ever committed to print, by the cleric Cotton Mather, who helped instigate the Salem witch trials. Mather’s text exhibits an exemplary ‘cognitive dissonance’, which could similarly be said to be characteristic of the political and financial elites of our own time. Mather’s poetic diction suggests that the problems of his time are the result of “spectral exhibitions” or “spectral representations”, sent by the Devil to torment New England. Do his words, three centuries on, ring true: “That which most threatens us in our present circumstances, is the Misunderstanding, and so the Animosity [that] has Enchanted us.”

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