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Blog - Richard Downes

Here the Curator Speaks of Shape Shifting Spaces


Cut Up Review of Space Shifters @ Hayward Gallery, 26th September 2018 – 6th January 2019
(including portions of a press release from Drag; Self-Portraits and Body Politics – no longer at the Hayward.)

Narcissus Garden 1966 by Yayoi Kusama. Photo by Ulrich Prigge, Owned by Clare Cunningham, Courtesy Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo

I attended an exhibition. It confounded me. What do you write about something like this. I took the exhibition guide and the press release for Drag, underlined words, wrote them down, cut them up, reassembled and came up with this, a compendium of cyborg-humanoid deformed by oppressive practice. I felt the new art work speak to me of change. I do not feel as if I could say anything else other than go to the exhibition. See what you can make of it.

Here the Curator speaks of Shape Shifting Spaces

Communication and dialogue

Outside or in
Angles and perspective
Reflections, warp, distort

In minutes
An apprentice, accomplished
Worn dancing trainers
His work touches
Voices, diverse
Of more than one gender

How we know it
Though it seems sudden
Surprising and objecting
This creature
chain linked, semi permeable
Remains private with it’s disembodied eye

Rarely a simple act
Something more other
Transmits reflective steel
Mirrored, repetitive
Has a psychological impact

Its solid material
Almost descends
Shining with uncanny depth
Sharing its interlinked optical experience
Danger, basic and physical
Take responsibility for yourself and blow

Lengths of pink brass
Physical, unstable
Reading our perception as a threat
Breathes blue haze
To another reality
White. Enjoy that.

And knock our world
Of the inhumane bodies
We don’t yet have
What we know
Nothing is quite

Phantasmagorical existence
Off kilter
The world the same
Steel, polished

Accomplished bronze
Strands of interlocking
Colour work by
Ordinary tactile systems
Shape shifting
Heavy, everything

A faint flint line
Mirrors hot settings
In outdoor public places, digesting
The choice to walk around
eroticised fetishism
dispersed stationary curves

We are distinct
We draw attention
Our schemes, our dreams, ambiguous
Class shifts and changes
Their landscaped boundaries
Space shifts perception

Circus couples
Repaired freaks still not belonging
Peculiar massive
We were mistakenly drawn
Briefly, dispassionately

Wearing masks
Made to be androgynous
We wrap and subvert
Political ideologies
Down to the ground

Visual effects
The brain questions
disorientating glass reflection
Cast, process
Radically different

A rough period of
Playful social trauma
Subverts dead ends
Our positions and themes

For minimal spectators
Exercising their imagination
Their tyrannical limitations
Freedom tottering
In stockings and high heels

Impersonating ideas
That make them sound
like experienced eccentrics
Repairing physical
Psychological hurt
From 50 years of disruption

Space and time
Leaves feelings
Of unexplored curves
Viewed from behind
Intangible abilities
Like power

Create the space
Grow the vine
Twist it around
existing energetic
Forthright stares

Grow out
Be luminous, reveal
Your thoughts
And dance between
Infinity reflecting the narcissistic

Spend evening
Life sized
From floor to ceiling
Be a performer
Shop childlike
To the end of experience

Be whole
Don’t let the otherness
Of your identity
Stop your individual act
For society

Whilst visitors
Contemplate the
Alluring elegance
Of your kind aspect
The exploration
Of our race

Absorb pain
Become part
Radically alter
Feel the light in the room

Be a device
Neither left nor right
Function, be real
Suspend meditative aspect
For stainless
Seductive action

Use scripts
Learned from
Childhood experience
Become alive
Show presence
In everything

Work and colour
Everything spherical
Use words
That interest
Write columns
Show more presence

Turn to key works
Explore the curtains
They activated
To seemly change
Our appearance

Be sensual
Explore patterns
Identify internal geometry
Marry two of a kind
Light weather beckons
The reduced steel of our argument

Be of primary gender
Drag artistic tools
Classify original intent
In new luscious environments
Use glass, resin, engine oil
Transform their attentions

Be domestic
Be indoors
Don’t let their cultural
Oppression perform
Illusionary systems
Of promised pleasure

Imitate their preconceptions
Challenge the universe
To sleep
Masquerade, undermine
Racial stereotypes
Political personalities

The queen
Is in her place
Perceptible, playful
Liquefied things
Making new combinations
Find dense poetic complexes
And dazzle

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