Emma Smith: Euphonia

The Bluecoat - Emma Smith ®Rob Battersby (@rjbattersby).jpg
Emma Smith, Euphonia, 2018, installation view at Bluecoat, Liverpool. Photograph: Rob Battersby © Bluecoat

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but it feels like peoples’ voices have been getting louder recently. There’s an urgency bubbling, a building hum, occasionally erupting into shouts and sobs, a startling squall. In a time of social division, there are also movements to form communities and to lend our voices to causes, to find better ways to communicate and to prevent the mental anguish of isolation. The premise of Emma Smith’s exhibition ‘Euphonia’ is that through speech we are constantly making music together, and that this collective action is important for social connection. This music is made not just through song, but in our everyday social interactions, our voices unconsciously hitting complementary notes, our speech patterns merging with others’ rhythms, becoming more harmonious as we bond.

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Caroline Achaintre

Caroline Achaintre, 2016, exhibition view, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art. Photograph: John McKenzie © BALTIC

The French/German, London-based artist Caroline Achaintre has been exploring the peculiar psychology of the mask for more than a decade. This has led her to some unusual places – from the costumes and characters of the European carnival and commedia dell’arte to catwalk fashion, S&M dens and schlocky sci-fi and horror films. Her work is heavily indebted to the German expressionists’ appropriation of primitive forms and the playful permissiveness of pop. Her first major survey, this exhibition brings together 63 works, including hand-tufted wool wall hangings, ceramic sculptures, prints and watercolours.

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duh? Art & Stupidity

Duh? Art & Stupidity, 2015-16. An exhibition at Focal Point Gallery, Southend-on-sea.

Well, I feel stupid. Having arrived at Focal Point Gallery on a free train direct from Fenchurch Street for an exhibition private view I found myself almost immediately in a long queue to get inside the gallery. At this point I was mildly frustrated at having to wait, but only because I assumed that the gallery must be checking off some sort of guest list, which I did not see as particularly necessary or welcoming. However, as I got nearer to the entrance I realised that the delay was in fact due to a small gaggle of women, all roughly middle-aged, who were blocking the doorway with a poorly situated conversation. This, it seemed, was caused by nothing less than their total obliviousness to anyone outside of their group. As it came my turn to squeeze past, I tried to catch one of their eyes, but they showed no recognition of the awkward situation they were creating. People were just about managing to edge themselves into the space one at a time, either by pressing themselves up against the far side of the door, as I did, or awkwardly wriggling through the middle of the women. This provoked a little flash of anger, or at least social disapproval — how could they be so inconsiderate? How could they be so stu… Oh, of course: ‘Duh!’

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Katrina Palmer: End Matter

Katrina Palmer, End Matter, 2015. An Artangel and BBC Radio 4 commission. Photograph: Brendan Buesnel

‘End Matter’ is a project by artist Katrina Palmer, commissioned by Artangel and BBC Radio 4. Palmer is an artist, and more specifically a sculptor, whose works take the form of words, both spoken and written. Her new work ‘End Matter’ is comprised of three parts: a publication of the same name, published by Book Works; a site-specific audio walk, itself divided into three sections, all under the title ‘The Loss Adjusters’; and a radio play broadcast by BBC Radio 4, ‘The Quarryman’s Daughters’. In these multiple formats the artist has explored the Isle of Portland. And explored is, perhaps more than many other projects it is applied to, apt to describe Palmer’s engagement with the small island, a mere 6 miles across and 1.5 miles wide, located just off the coast of Dorset.

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As real as walking down the street and going to the grocery store

As real as walking down the street and going to the grocery store, John Baldessari, Andy Holden, Shana Moulton, Rachel Maclean, Heather Phillipson, Samara Scott. Installation view at Rowing, London, October — November 2013

‘Godfather of Conceptual Art’ John Baldessari is best known for his humorous subversion of the ideology of images. When Baldessari was asked by artist Paul Pfeiffer what percentage of his visual material was found and how much he generated himself he responded, that it was 50/50 and the half that he collects and the half that he generates inform him equally. He continued:

In the 20th century in general every movie we see on TV, everything we see in newspapers or magazines is just as real as walking down the street and going to the grocery store.

As the press release for the exhibition, which takes its title from his statement, advances, ‘Baldessari’s answer not only reveals the complex interdependence between reality and fiction, but how reality – to quote psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan – ‘takes on the structure of a fiction.’’

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A Small Hiccup

A Small Hiccup, Grand Union, Birmingham. Installation view, 2013.

If you have ever spent any time considering how language mutates, from marvelling at how swiftly neologisms like ‘omnishambles’ enter the dictionary to bemoaning how IAU (incessant acronym use) is degrading the English language, then maybe it will not be too great a leap for you to imagine a world in which language itself has become diseased. ‘Pontypool’ (2008), a low budget horror film, which does what ambitious low budget horror should by working within its limited means to convey a disturbing but compelling idea, introduces a new form of viral infection: a linguistic disease spread through speech.

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Puppet Show

Puppet Show, Eastside Projects, Birmingham. Installation view, 2013.

‘Puppet Show’ is the latest in a series of group exhibitions and productions within Eastside Projects that ‘examine modes of display and the construction of the public sphere’. The medium, be it painting, sculpture, the gallery or the book, is not only represented in its multiplicity but is also actively engaged with to form connections, test propositions and produce new work. Making a tangential leap from ‘Narrative Show’ in 2011, the artists Celine Condorelli and Tom Bloor have curated an exhibition that explores the subversive potential of mediating their message through crude and diminutive alter egos by installing, or revealing, a puppet state.

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Amanda Beech: Final Machine

Amanda Beech, Final Machine, LGP Projects, Coventy. Installation view, 2013.

In 1967 French Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser delivered a series of three lectures as part of the ‘Philosophy Course for Scientists’ at the École Normale Supérieure, a course of initiation for non-philosophers inaugurated by Althusser and colleagues as an attempt to move philosophy from a specialist and abstract discourse towards a practical application, ‘a weapon in the ideological battle’. Delivered across the academic year they drew huge crowds from the student body, coming to a close on the eve of the eruption of riots in May 1968.

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