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.
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.
Vexation Island, 1997
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.
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.
You ruin everything you adore, 2017
What a force for good you run, 2017
I want them to see it just like me, 2017
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.
Taking a Line for a Walk, 2008
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.
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.
Turning a Blind Eye, 1984
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.
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.
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.