Only six months into their two-year Master’s degrees, 74 students from MA Photography, MA Fine Art and MA Art and Science showcase their work at Hackney’s ex-industrial venue The Laundry. Meet some of the students involved and hear about the innovative concepts behind their work.
Our Laughter Will Drown Your Sorrows is immediately mysterious, it is darker than a typical art exhibition, owing perhaps to the science and photography roots that many of the students share. The combination of the three MA subjects makes for a particularly intelligent and compelling exhibition, where socially-constructed artwork seems to be a dominating theme. The walls, floors and ceiling are richly crammed with monitors, sculptures, paintings, installations, photographs and projections. Performers can be found throughout; one carves away all evening at a concrete block, clutched between his bare feet, another lies corpse-like under latex, their head buried in a small-scale, woollen house. Every inch has been wonderfully curated, and the exhibiting students are justifiably proud. I caught up with a few of the students at the exhibition’s private view to discuss the work on show.
Natalia Sahlit’s untitled installation is born out of a frustration with studying music; never quite grasping the ability to write or read sheet music for the violin. A foldable music stand is surrounded by 400 sheets of paper, each containing various sections of Beethoven’s 9th symphony. The work has a performative feel, each piece of paper suggesting the hands which crushed it. Natalia later tells me how assembling the work was cathartic; almost performance-like without an audience. The work is curiously serene, its performative past is now static, sitting timidly within itself. I ask Natalia which medium best fits the work, and she explains that it’s somewhere between installation, sculpture and performance, and summarises the work as a gesture of failure.
MA Fine Art
#millionmouths is a cleverly satirical artwork positioned aptly within 2016, a time in which many of us are absorbed by the internet; posting selfie after selfie. The work gestures the club toilet mirror, hinting at a generation of girls endlessly posing for their next Facebook-update; the one which proves that they’re having the best night ever. A bubblegum-pink plinth sits proudly in the exhibition, graffiti is scrawled over it (the public are invited to contribute to this) and on one side a grubby, lipstick-stained mirror faces out toward the wall. From the top of the plinth a film is projected onto the white brick wall; indecent images pulled from the internet and self portraits of the artist flicker across one another. The audience are invited to take a selfie in front of the artwork and upload it to a social media platform, using the hashtag ‘millionmouths’. Kirstin Barnes explores the prurient in her film, relishing anything that we should be disgusted by but instead can’t help looking at. She combines images of mouths and vaginas with her own portraits, and phrases such as, “You hold me firmly” and “It’s so swollen” roll across the screen. As viewers step up to take their photo, Kirstin explains how they’re too concerned with getting the right angle to notice that there might be a vulgar image or statement projected over their face. #millionmouths shows the gritty reality of social media in the modern day world, where manufactured selfies in sleazy club toilets are Kirstin’s epitome of this.
MA Fine Art
He Said Eat Fat Boy Through Gritted Teeth explores an amplified excessiveness of the relationship between food and our modern-day relationship to the screen. A plasma video screen lounges on top of a lilac and white faux-fur plinth, with a 4 minute film playing continuously on the screen. The plinth is flesh-like and domesticated, both grotesque and seductively inviting. Through his film, Jack Marder explores gainer culture and the people who are sexually engrossed by this; where a participant can take on the role of encourager, bloater, gainer or admirer. The film’s voiceover recounts gainer stories which have been posted online, and fan fiction about feeding, being fed and the dominant/submissive characters who feature within these. The film visualises these ideas using a male character who talks with a lego man in mouth, alluding to the sexual fantasy of being swallowed whole. Jack explains that his work can take on a sinister edge at times, and encompasses a dominant, masculine energy with a male ego. He studies social conditions such as Vorarephilia, where food and sex are associated together, and the Japanese culture of Hikikomori, which is a Japanese term referring to adults who have become socially withdrawn. Through these, he simultaneously examines how we consume the electronic screen, and how the excessiveness of human-computer interaction can lead to loneliness. It is a compelling exploration when today, in our technologically-driven modern world, we are becoming increasingly absorbed by the ‘screen’ that Jack rhythmically refers to.
MA Art and Science
An Exploration of Atmospheric Chemical Elements is an alluringly beautiful piece; its charming aesthetic is used by Irish artist Ainne Burke to raise awareness of the harmful chemicals in our environment. The painting presents molecules of the thirteen elements; turquoise is nitrogen, gold is neon and red is the building up of CO2 beyond its natural balance. The head and tail of the painting are barely visible, where Ainne has used beeswax batik to suggest the fragments of the atmosphere that we don’t see and therefore are generally unaware of, but that it is something which we constantly consume; inhale, exhale. Ainne’s work highlights that there is no such thing as fresh air; she explains that we are continually polluting ourselves by inhaling and recycling air. All of the materials used to create the piece are natural pigments, applied onto a very delicate Chinese paper to highlight the fragility of the environment that we live in. This artwork sits within a wider project that Ainne is conducting to raise awareness of a dying lake in Burma. TEAM, The Earth And Me, brings a visual message to an international audience. Using the chemistry of the periodic table (humans being 38 of these, all constantly interacting with the molecules of the air, earth and water), Ainne hopes to convey that as individuals, we all have a relationship to the earth, and she hopes to raise awareness of how we can better look after it.
MA Fine Art
Puckered is a study of David Cameron’s mouth, and the repulsion that artist Maxine Hayes feels toward it. Focusing on the mouth, and more importantly what comes out of it, Maxine exhibits a large-scale, magnified print of Cameron’s lips. In front, hangs a spherical speaker with the phrase, “Mr. Speaker” on repeat, creating a dialogue between the speaker and sound. Among Cameron’s recurrent phrase is what sounds like the roar of a football crowd, but Maxine tells me that these are crowd sounds from the House of Commons, where politicians were apparently jeering Boris Johnson. As a football fan herself, she was hoping to draw on this comparison, highlighting the ‘yobbish’ behaviour that she believes is usually associated with the working class. Maxine talks to me about the absurd class structures within our society, where she uses her practice to showcase human condition and behaviour. Puckered questions the truth that comes from political voices and the disdain that she feels is directed toward real people like herself.
Words and photography by Holly Delaney
The featured image shows the work of Siobhan Bradshaw