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29 November 2013 – 7 February 2014
Meridian explores the ways in which humans have long been fixated on recording their position in the world. Complex maps, charts and plans are used not only to document the physicality of our environment but to record such data as social hierarchy and genetics. This apparently empirical and neutral medium has consistently been used to coerce, propagandise, distort and create new “truths” in the service of political motivation.
The End of the World by Stefana McClure is a tightly coiled ball made from the last printed copy of The News of the World from July 2011. As a hand-made unique work, it presents the antithesis to the mass production of print media. The transformation imbues the work with relevance beyond this individual historical moment, prompting the viewer to consider the structural and visual power of language to persuade. McClure’ s Colourblind Drawings are inspired by traditional Japanese tests to detect colour vision deficiencies. She creates a tool capable of mapping our ability to discern colours and to confirm the reality of our surroundings. Understanding that the person next to us may not be able to detect the difference between the colours of McClure’ s work reminds us that we all see the world differently; there can be more than one simultaneous version of “reality”.
In Old Money Susan Stockwell constructs Britain from old £1 notes, a visualisation of the longstanding influence of aristocratic “old money” in shaping the country. Simultaneously the obsolescence of the currency also points to the new, often foreign economic forces that seem to be shaping Britain’s future. The work offers a tangible connection to the myriad of historical lives that have been shaped by this iconic currency. Stockwell used PC motherboards to make Africa Gold, linking these digital maps to the physical shape of the continent that made them possible. Materials used in computers and mobile phones are frequently mined in difficult conditions, standing in sharp contrast to the progressivism this technology seems to promise.
Mat Chivers created the Mappa Universalis series from a life-size rapid prototype model of his own brain built from MRI scans. The fragmented neurological images presented in the works draw on both the right (intuitive and imaginative) side of the brain as well as the (logical and reasoning) left side. For Chivers the brain represents an internal map of reality – Mappa Universalis presents a map of that map. The work provokes consideration of the fact that we can only form perceptions from the information that our brains can find, whether through logic or intuition. These unconventional self-portraits also reveal the neurological map we each hold inside ourselves that helps to shape who we are.
In Circular Mound Altar in Perspective Gregory Michael Hernandez begins with the mathematical coordinates of the 405 stones of the Circular Mound Altar in Beijing. Built in 1530 during the Ming Dynasty, under reign of Emperor Jiajing, The Mound Altar is an outdoor empty circular platform of marble, constructed on three concentric levels. As part of the Temple of Heaven, every element is highly symbolic in charting mans perceived relationship with heaven – each terrace has four entrances and a flight of nine steps which represent the nine layers of heaven. Using the coordinates Hernandez cartographically photographed the night sky near his LA home, transposing both the symbolic mapping of heaven and the spiritual notion of a portal between heaven and earth.
Matthew Picton’s Moscow 1812 is based on a 19th century map depicting fire damage caused by Napoleon’ s attack on the city. Using sheets of music from Tchaikovsky’ s renowned 1812 Overture, Picton has created a map of the city burnt to correspond with areas of damage. Both the original map and the 1812 Overture were state commissioned to demonstrate damage caused by foreign forces and Russian national pride in their success in extreme adversity. Picton uses these propagandising tools to map both the physical damage to the city and psychological process of recovery. The work also documents Tolstoy’s recollection in War and Peace, of the fear and superstition provoked by a comet seen above the city in early 1812, which with hindsight was considered a portent of the city’s fate.
Alison Turnbull’s Jefferson (orange) is based on the plans of an observatory designed by Thomas Jefferson in Virginia at the beginning of the nineteenth century. It was to be the first observatory in America but, as it turned out, it was built but never functioned as intended. In this respect it can be seen as emblematic of the enlightenment project – perhaps doomed to failure. Jefferson thought astronomy was the ‘most sublime of all the sciences’ and he felt that by contemplating the stars he would be better able to fix his position on earth and create a ‘true geography’ of his new country. Jefferson (orange) refers not only to mapping, but also to nationhood and to the aesthetic potential of empirical data.
The artists included in Meridian have previously exhibited work at the Royal Academy of the Arts, Tate Modern, National Museum of China – Beijing, the Venice Biennale 2013 and 2011, and Katona Museum of Art – New York. Their work is held in permanent collections around the world, including MOMA, Fitzwilliam Museum – Cambridge, Fogg Art Museum – Massachusetts and the Victoria and Albert Museum. Alison Turnbull currently has a solo exhibition at the De La Warr Pavillion.
PLEASE CLICK EACH NAME FOR THE ARTISTS CV:
Lead image: Stefana McClure, The End of the World, 2012, final issue of the news of the world, pin. (Courtesy of the artist and Bartha Contemporary)
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