“Civic Duty” at Cell Project Space, London
Civic Duty examines public life defined by its prohibitions and exclusions, bringing together a selection of intergenerational artists that investigate or draw from various marginalised positions to explore broader social and political ground. It comments on the mundane violence of institutional care and welfare structures that produce the administration of social control, rendering the body either necessarily functional or silenced, ignored and erased. The mechanics of urban infrastructure are represented in the exhibition from the materials and machines that enact civic protocols to the tools that maintain order and regulate movement of bodies relating to their safety, health and the autonomy of others.
Three new oil paintings Walk 2019 on 1/8 inch industrial steel by Sam Lipp depict cellphone images of US pedestrian signs, using photographic likeness to depict an often unnoticed but pervasive aspect of everyday life. They put into play associated binaries of stop and go, black and white, light and dark, positive and negative.
Donald Rodney’s Psalms (1997) is a motorised wheelchair that uses sensors and a neural network-based computer programme to move autonomously around the room. The system continuously maps the space, avoiding obstacles and humans. The work was originally exhibited at South London Gallery in 1997 for the artist’s solo exhibition 9th Night in El Dorado, to represent Rodney’s presence (who was unable to attend due to his chronic illness). 8 sonar sensors, shaft-encoders, video camera and rate gyroscope determine its position and encode 25 semi-circular sequences of movements to perform its trajectory. Rodney lived with sickle-cell anaemia and died in 1998 at age 36.
The sound of rushing air radiates through the gallery’s rear space, resonating from twelve Dohm white noise machines mounted to the ceiling in Carolyn Lazard’s ‘A Conspiracy’. The machines (often used in therapists offices, hospital bedsides, acupuncture centres and hotel rooms) mask sound and create background stimulation; the result can aid relaxation and cognitive function. The sound forms a manufactured sanctuary with the resonating machines arranged into grids set to ‘overdrive’. First exhibited in Trigger: Gender as a Tool and a Weapon New Museum, New York City (Sept. 2017 – Jan. 2018).
Vanishing Point #4 and #5 (2009) are part of a larger series by Adrian Piper that repurpose administrative material such as reports and other official documents. Two pages from partially completed employment applications are altered and blocked out with pencil and ballpoint pen alongside a series of ‘gun target’ concentric circles. The defaced document is rubbed and eroded with sandpaper to the point of complete erasure.
At Cell Project Space, London
Until 21 July 2019