“Nowadays everything happens at once and our souls are conveniently electronic (omniattentive).” John Cage, 1966
Lisson Gallery opened on Bell Street in 1967, a year after this pronouncement on the conditions of contemporary existence and communication. Today, half a century on, the gallery remains on the same London street – as well as in New York’s Chelsea neighbourhood – presenting artists on multiple platforms throughout the world. Lisson Gallery has staged over 500 solo exhibitions by more than 150 international artists: a cumulative chronicle, through the media of sculpture, painting, video, text, performance and installation of the seismic cultural changes of the past 50 years. Now more than ever, art, like life, assaults us through multiple senses, collapsing time and space into experience, effect and event. Since the heyday of Conceptual art in the 1960s, of which Lisson Gallery’s founder Nicholas Logsdail was a pioneering spirit, artists can now also utilise any means, any media and any place in the world to create and convey artistic meaning.
Freeing the Voice, 1975 Freeing the Body, 1975 Freeing the Memory, 1975
Since the beginning of her career in Belgrade during the early 1970s, Marina Abramović (born 1946, Serbia) has pioneered performance as a visual art form. For this trilogy of works she developed a simple set of scores, the first of which was: “I lie on the floor with my head titled backward. I scream until I lose my voice.” The painful reality and the durational element of Freeing the Voice (the actual performance was over three hours in length, this film version is only 35 minutes long) prefigured her lifelong commitment to such bodily experimentation and was followed by Freeing the Body (55 mins), in which Abramović dances vigorously until exhaustion sets in and she collapses.
By cutting off her own vision with a mask she was further attempting to achieve a higher level of consciousness where there is no fear of pain, death or physical restriction. For the final work and her first purely mental activity, Freeing the Memory (50 mins), she recited every word of Serbian she could recall, including some in English and Dutch, until the well of words has dried and the performance is over.
Wall work: Odyssey, 2016
Floor works: Iron Tree Trunk, 2015 Iron Root, 2015
Ai Weiwei (born 1957, China) is a conceptual artist, architect and activist, whose work revolves around the human condition, as well as the social and political contracts that bind and divide us. Revisiting last year’s exhibition at Lisson Gallery in New York, Ai again pairs his epic wallpaper frieze, entitled Odyssey, with a landscape of blasted tree roots – together speaking of displacement, conflict and alienation.
While undoubtedly created against the backdrop of the ongoing global refugee crisis, the iconography of the wallpaper was equally inspired by Greek and Egyptian imagery and by narratives documenting the earliest movements of people. Spanning almost 60 metres of the ground floor space, this journey cycles from past to present, interrupted only by a felled tree trunk in rusted iron and a gleaming cast of a root, sprayed in garish gold car paint. These are also representations of past time immemorial meeting an accelerated modern world.
ALLORA & CALZADILLA
Solar Catastrophe, 2012 Shape Shifter, 2013
Jennifer Allora & Guillermo Calzadilla (born 1974, USA and 1971, Cuba) identify and stress hairline fractures in societal systems through performance, sculpture, sound, video and photography. Solar Catastrophe continues the artists’ engagement with the political and socio-economic forces at play in their native Puerto Rico, which their exhibition at Lisson Gallery London, ‘Foreign in a Domestic Sense’, expands upon (until 11 November 2017). Made from discarded polycrystalline solar panel cells, which are thrown out every two years, the artists highlight the practice of ‘greenwashing’ a product’s environmental credentials. Constructed in the manner of an abstract painting, the surface of the work absorbs and reflects light, changing colour depending on atmospheric conditions. Shapeshifter is also an abstraction, this time of the marks left on or by used sandpaper sheets, collected from building sites around the world, representing both destruction and construction, human labour and mechanical erasure.
MIG 29 Soviet Fighter Plane and Clouds, 2005
Cory Arcangel (born 1978, USA) is a leading exponent of technology-based art, drawn to video games, software and online platforms for their ability to formulate new communities and traditions and, equally, for their rapid obsolescence.
These four projections depict elements of a hacked video game from the early 1990s, its modified cartridges and Nintendo consoles are also on display as the only other components of the work. This endless intro screen captures a foreboding Soviet fighter jet, partially frozen mid-bombing mission over a nameless Middle Eastern country, suspended next to a trio of scudding clouds and computer-blue skies.
Incorporating hacking as an artistic practice, Arcangel remains faithful to open source culture, making his working methods available online and thus superimposing a perpetual question-mark as to the value
of the art object.
ART & LANGUAGE
Qui Pourra, 2008
Art & Language began in the late 1960s as an amorphous, more-or-less anonymous gathering of like-minded artists and thinkers who tested art’s limits and possibilities, with loosely connected chapters in England and the US. Now defined as a collaboration between Michael Baldwin and Mel Ramsden (born 1945 and 1944, UK) this video work, Qui Pourra (8 mins 39 secs), depicts the artists’ studio as a space of collaboration, conversation, reverie, industry and conversely, inactivity – with the work only revealing itself and any possible meaning incrementally over time, through a steady accretion of ideas.
Mapping text over their place of work and further superimposing their voices at work over this static image, Qui Pourra (which roughly translates as ‘who can?’) not only depicts the artistic process – of thought, action, discussion – but represents many areas of Art & Language’s conceptual practice, combining as it does text, performance, painting, criticism and publishing.
Tools, 1986 Minster, 1987
Tony Cragg (born 1949, UK) is one of the world’s foremost sculptors, constantly pushing to find new relations between people and the material world. In the 1980s, Cragg began to make sculptures suggestive of architecture, such as Minster, which recalls the spires of a cathedral, albeit built from scraps of rubber, stone, wood and metal.
These totemic piles of found objects and machined parts suggest an industrial counterpoint to the history of man-made achievements, while his other work nearby, Tools, made from sandstone, conveys the opposite, being hand wrought versions of mechanical aids, such as screwdrivers and mallets. Cragg sees no difference between the natural and the artificial, preferring to acknowledge the bridges between the two, the synthetic here acquiring figurative qualities in some of the bust-like tools, while his stacked turrets of spacers, washers and engine spares travel back through time to suggest archaeological accretions and geological strata.
Floor works: Turning a Blind Eye, 1984 Vincent, 2005
Wall works: Infinity #35, 2008 Infinity #36, 2016
Richard Deacon (born 1949, UK) fabricates abstract forms in an extensive range of materials, here working with glazed ceramic, stainless steel and bent, laminated wood. His singular sculptures are outlandish objects, appearing to have landed in the space fully-formed; either through industrial processes, as a result of natural forces, or by a combination of the two – only revealing their true complexity through closer inspection of hand-finished details, rivets and joins.
These historical and recent works are from disparate periods of Deacon’s 40-year practice and from different bodies of work, but are united by the continuity of their outlines, their surfaces morphing in the round or else looping back on themselves, suggesting a state that is both fixed and fluid at the same time. This implausible idea is physicalised in the undulating movement and Möbius-like wooden strip of Turning a Blind Eye, first shown at Tate Gallery in 1985.
NATHALIE DJURBERG & HANS BERG
The Black Pot, 2013
Mixing animation, sculpture and sound, Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg (both born 1978, Sweden) create psychologically charged scenarios dealing with human and animalistic desires. Known for their work using clay animation, atmospheric sound effects and hypnotic music, this immersive installation takes a radical shift towards abstraction. Embodying the trance-like qualities of Berg’s music, Djurberg’s moving fields of colour and energy explore the creation of something out of nothing, perhaps following the primordial beginnings of life and consciousness through the universal cycle to death and regeneration – essentially presenting an origin story in exhibition form.
The floating world of The Black Pot, first shown in the round at the Garage Museum in Moscow and now reimagined and reconfigured as a room of interlocking screens, can be experienced from outside, as a looping stream of Rorschach inkblots, or from within, as a fluid, psychedelic environment, approximating a cocooned cosmos.
Floor work: Taking a Line for a Walk, 2008
Wall work: Line Busy (UK), 2011
Conceptual artist Ceal Floyer (born 1968) is celebrated for her deft manoeuvres in everyday situations, testing the slippage between function and implication, the literal and the imagined – reconfiguring familiar objects as sources of surprise and humour.
Providing circuitous guidance around the exhibition is her performative work, Taking a Line for a Walk, which plays on Paul Klee’s 1923 assertion that a drawing should be: “An active line on a walk, moving freely, without goal. A walk for walk’s sake”. After this helpful intervention – marked by the discarded, spent painting machine, typically used to delineate football pitches – Floyer follows this with a note of frustration through Line Busy (UK), a wall of speakers blaring the busy signal of a country-specific failed telephone call. The minimal black line is a visual echo of the engaged tone itself and, like its sister piece, leaves the viewer at a crossroads between pause and uncertainty.
Figures: You ruin everything you adore, 2017 What a force for good you run, 2017 I want them to see it just like me, 2017
Wall works: I be…(xix), 2017 Forces outside of you (Because you cede your life decisions and consequences to forces outside of you), 2017
The playful yet complex practice of Ryan Gander (born 1976, UK) is stimulated by queries, investigations or what-ifs, rather than strict rules or limits. His newly commissioned works for EVERYTHING AT ONCE consider the psychology behind looking, feeling and wishing.
Four life-size sentinels – based on armatures used by artists to model the human form – are positioned in dramatic poses, each evoking a different emotion, despite their featureless faces. Two characters recreate the scene of the Pietà (meaning pity in Italian) in which Mary cradles the limp body of Jesus; one reaches down into a glowing portal and another contemplates his brethren, as well as a draped mirror and a stairway to heaven. Collectively titled Dramaturgical frameworks for structure and stability, in reference to Erving Goffman’s sociological approach that uses theatre to portray and evaluate social interaction, these figures also play on the notion of spectatorship, shifting the relationship between spectator and spectacle.
Two V’s Entrance-Way, 2016
For the past 50 years, Dan Graham (born 1942, USA) has traced the symbiosis between architectural environments and their inhabitants. With a practice that encompasses curating, writing, performance, installation, video, photography and architecture, Graham’s critical engagement manifests most alluringly in his steel and two-way mirrored glass pavilions, which have been realised in sites all over the world.
Through the presence of people within these geometric forms, his pavilions investigate notions of inclusion and exclusion. Two V’s Entrance-Way – one of Graham’s largest and most ambitious pavilions to date – engages not only with the Brutalist surroundings and the glass atrium but also with visitors to the exhibition, drawing attention to the way in which buildings can act as instruments of expression, psychological strongholds, markers of social change as well as prisms through which we view ourselves and others.
Projected work: Vexation Island, 1997
Wall work Leaping Hermit, 2011
Rodney Graham (born 1949, Canada) pulls at the threads of cultural and intellectual history through photography, film, music, performance and painting. In this seminal, cinematic short film, Vexation Island
(9 mins, 12 secs) which Graham premiered at the Canadian Pavilion of the 1997 Venice Biennale, the artist appears in full shipwrecked sailor mode, albeit pre-Pirates of the Caribbean, lying unconscious under a tree on a paradise island, with a bruise on his head. Played on a neverending loop, the protagonist wakes up every nine minutes to his cosmic joke, shaking the coconut tree and knocking himself out once again.
The fantasy role-playing theme continues in the Leaping Hermit triptych of light boxes, showcasing another of Graham’s many alter-egos. This time he’s dressed as a live-in hermit, like those paid to stay on grand estates in Georgian England, but he’s also blissfully unaware of his fate and soon-to-be-irrelevant place in history.
Susan Hiller (born 1940, USA) has spent the past six decades questioning belief systems and the production of meaning. Since first making innovative use of audio and visual technology in the early 1980s, her ground-breaking installations, multi-screen video and audio works have achieved international recognition.
The raw material for her monumental bank of 104 analogue television screens, entitled Channels, is a collection of audio accounts and oscilloscope recordings of people who have experienced death and returned to tell the tale. These vivid stories in many different languages constitute a remarkable contemporary archive, whether the accounts are regarded as metaphors, misconceptions, myths, delusions or truths. The work, first exhibited at Matt’s Gallery in London, considers how such anomalous, near-death experiences might cause interference within our modern belief systems and influence collective cultural life.
Since rising to prominence in the 1980s, Shirazeh Houshiary (born 1955, Iran) has expanded her sculptural practice to encompass painting, installation, architectural projects, animation and film. “I set out to capture my breath,” she said in 2000, to “find the essence of my own existence, transcending name, nationality, cultures”.
Last exhibited in its full installation form during the Venice Biennale in 2013 and here newly reconfigured for Store Studios, Houshiary’s installation Breath features the evocative chants of Buddhist, Christian, Jewish and Islamic prayers, all emanating from four video screens within a darkened and enclosed space, clad in black felt. The sound is choreographed with the expanding and contracting breath of the vocalists. The chants of these four different traditions rise and fall, swell and dissipate, in a haunting chorus that fills the room with a potent atmosphere of both spiritual collaboration and political conflict, permeating beyond each of the walls.
At the Edge of the World II, 1998
Anish Kapoor (born 1954, India) creates large-scale installations and sculptures that recede from view, protrude into space or distort the air around them. By combining them with pigment and light – or the lack of it – he transforms the viewer’s perception of his work, creating ephemeral experiences as much as actual objects.
In common with Kapoor’s large-scale site-specific public commissions, including Cloud Gate (2006) in Chicago, USA, and ArcelorMittal Orbit (2012) at the Olympic Park in London, the pigment piece presented at Store Studios is at once monumental and personal, expanding the area it occupies while swallowing its visibility from below.
At the Edge of the World II has been exhibited previously at the Hayward Gallery in 1998 and most recently at the Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo (MUAC) in Mexico last year.
Painter, sculptor, writer and philosopher Lee Ufan (born 1936, South Korea) came to prominence in the late 1960s as one of the major theoretical and practical proponents of the avant-garde Mono-ha (Object School) group. The Mono-ha school of thought was Japan’s first contemporary art movement to gain international recognition. It rejected Western notions of representation, focusing on the relationships of materials and perceptions rather than on expression or intervention. The artists of Mono-ha present works made of raw physical materials that have barely been manipulated.
Composed of a raw stone facing a blank canvas and a wall painting bearing repeated, layered sweeps of paint, Lee’s two Dialogue works are displayed in a discrete, chamber-like environment. This silent, ascetic, but highly charged space encourages a close, personal encounter with the works and offers a place for contemplation.
Peloponnese Line, 2017
Richard Long (born 1945, UK) has been in the vanguard of conceptual and land art in Britain since he created A Line Made by Walking half a century ago in 1967, the same year as Lisson Gallery was founded. That photograph, of the fixed path left by his feet repeatedly traversing a section of grass, established a precedent that art could be a journey. Ever since, Long has made site-specific, ephemeral works in the open air, as well as in gallery settings.
This new large-scale mud work, made directly on to one wall of Store Studios, continues a series of temporary murals in clay and mud that include other monumental examples, such as Long’s Red Earth Circle, made for the ‘Magiciens de la Terre’ exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in 1989. Over a minimal black line, the artist’s gestures and finger strokes suggest a simultaneity of forces governing each mark – from his own bodily movement and energy, to the gravity, chance and nature of the unstable, liquid material.
A Chamber for Horwitz, Sonakinatography Transcriptions in Surround Sound, 2015
Channa Horwitz Sonakinatography Composition III, 1996
Haroon Mirza (born 1977, UK) has won international acclaim for installations that test the interplay and friction between sound and light waves and electric current. Transcribing a complex working drawing by LA-based artist Channa Horwitz (1932–2013), Mirza turns her notational sequences and matrices into a multi-coloured, sonic score. The electric noise of the currents that light the LEDs in one of the eight possible configurations and colour combinations, as marked by Horwitz, is simultaneously translated via speakers to audible noise pulses in different octaves. Together, these acoustic, visual interpretations of the Horwitz data result in a choreographed, compositional concert, which is at once computer-programmed and man-made – both ‘live’ and historic.
A Chamber for Horwitz; Sonakinatography Transcriptions in Surround Sound is a conceptual development of an earlier piece by Mirza, titled Adam, Eve, Others and a UFO (2013), which is currently on view at the Zabludowicz Collection in London until 17 December.
Time Waterfall, 2017
Employing contemporary materials such as electric circuits, video, and computer systems, Tatsuo Miyajima (born 1957, Japan) creates supremely technological works centred on his use of LED counters, or ‘gadgets’ as he calls them. These numbers, flashing in continual and repetitious cycles from 1 up to 9 or from 9 down to 1, represent the journey from birth to death, the finality of which is symbolised by ‘0’, the void or zero point, which consequently never appears in his work.
Time Waterfall is a new work by Miyajima in which numbers tumble randomly and incessantly for eternity, with the different sizes of the numerals and varying speeds of descent representing the trajectory of individual lives within that continuum. The work presented in EVERYTHING AT ONCE is a sculptural realisation of Miyajima’s Time Waterfall, first created for the facade of a Hong Kong skyscraper, produced for the International Convention Centre commission in March 2016.
Floor works: Imagine you are driving (Sculpture 4), 1993 i., 1988 t., 1988
The distinctive visual language of Julian Opie (born 1958, UK) reflects his artistic preoccupation with the technological mediation through which we experience the world around us. A combination of early and recent works feature in EVERYTHING AT ONCE, from empty cabinets that evoke the urban or working environments, to a scaled-down model of a racetrack, constructed from concrete, and two driving films that reflect the urban cityscape beyond.
Opie’s slick finishes and geometric shapes mirror the ruins of this former corporate interior – the office architecture long emptied of any human interaction. Opie’s racetrack and first-person driving videos represent
a different kind of rat-race: the endless circuits around which we are all inexorably travelling, proffering hypnotic visions of mass transit and mass consumption. From our homes and workplaces to our roads and highways, Opie plays with this vocabulary of everyday life; his reductive style evoking systems of control hiding in plain sight.
Lick in the Past, 2016
The latest artist to join Lisson Gallery in 2017, Laure Prouvost (born 1978, France) explores notions of language and translation in her multidisciplinary practice. Embracing linguistic complexity and the limitations of communication, Prouvost creates films and installations that reveal fantasies, question comfort zones and propose new freedoms. For Lick in the Past (8 mins 25 secs), the artist follows a group of teenagers cruising through Los Angeles while nonchalantly discussing dreams and desires, as filtered through their environs. These trance-like confessions and conversations are inter-cut with images of squid and fish, which – together with glimpses of Prouvost’s body and the landscape of LA – form a poetic road movie about the vague promises and wistful possibilities of youth. The film is installed within a sea of detritus trapped in poured resin and viewed from bucket seats within a scattering of tropical pot plants, resembling the aftermath of a pool party. The visuals are accompanied by a hip-hop soundtrack composed by LA-based producer WYNN.
Al Araba Al Madfuna III, 2015
Based on extensive periods of research and enquiry, the work of Wael Shawky (born 1971, Egypt) tackles notions of national, religious and artistic identity through film, performance and storytelling.
This film (23 mins) is one of three titled Al Araba Al Madfuna (meaning ‘buried cart’) after a village in Egypt where shamans urged inhabitants to dig underground tunnels, revealing a network of ancient temples and Pharaonic treasures. Acted by children who have been dubbed in classical Arabic with adult voices, the layering of history and narratives over many centuries creates sensations of wonder, alienation and estrangement, exacerbated by the film’s production in negative, which further highlights the protagonists’ role reversals.
This is the third and final film in Shawky’s Al Araba Al Madfuna trilogy and is being shown in London for the first time, following a screening of the first two films at the Serpentine Gallery in London in 2013.
Wall work across three floors:
WHOLE CLOTH STRETCHED TO THE LIMIT, 2013
Texts by Lawrence Weiner (born 1942, USA) have appeared in all sorts of locations over the last five decades: as vinyl or paint on walls and windows of galleries and public spaces, spoken as audio, video or performance, printed in books and on posters, cast or carved as letters and even turned into tattoos, graffiti, lyrics and so on, ad infinitum.
He defines his medium simply as ‘language + the material referred to’, signifying that text is as much a means of construction as any sculptural matter. While his works exist only as words in these multiple formats,
he is closely involved in their physical manifestations, detailing type sizes, surface texture and placement, often inventing new fonts. For EVERYTHING AT ONCE, Weiner has chosen to repeat his phrase like an instruction or mantra across all three stairwells, suggesting a constancy and layering that ties each level together, even if also threatening that it might all burst at the seams.
highsummer, 2017 Prussian Blue, 2017 May Day, 2017 Bertacca, 2017
Stanley Whitney (born 1946, USA) has been exploring the formal possibilities of colour within ever-shifting grids of multi-hued blocks and all-over fields of gestural marks and passages since the mid-1970s. Whitney’s signature format revolves around his use of a loose grid, structured around abstract coloured blocks and lines, testing combinations, arrangements, density and transparency of colours to evoke a sense of rhythm and cadence.
There are strong connections to music in Whitney’s work, from the performative ‘dance’ he enacts when working on each canvas, to the ‘call and response’ technique that governs his decisions over neighbouring colours, mimicking the musical pattern of the same name. Examples of jazz and African music are often cited by Whitney as sources for his polyrhythmic, near-synaesthetic paintings. An exhibition of drawings by Stanley Whitney is currently on view at Lisson Gallery in New York until 21 October.
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