As part of the city-wide contemporary art event Art Sheffield 08: Yes, No & Other Options, Site Gallery is showing work by Jirí Kovanda, Silke Otto Knapp, Janice Kerbel, Hilary Lloyd and Kirsten Pieroth.
Taking a specially commissioned text by art critic Jan Verwoert as its foundation, this city-wide exhibition addresses the fact that in a post-industrial condition, one particularly relevant to Sheffield, we have entered into a service culture where we no longer just work, we perform in a perpetual mode of ‘I Can’. (Even advertising tells us that ‘Life gets more exciting when you say yes’). Verwoert proposes that certain means of resisting the pressure to perform are in themselves creative and suggests that as well as ‘yes’ and ‘no’, there may be other options. The works in the exhibition at Site ask whether there could be a way to perform differently, exuberantly, fulfilling no demands and going beyond all expectations.
Jirí Kovanda developed his practice from the mid-1970s under political conditions imposed on Czechoslovakia after the quelling of the Prague Spring. Kovanda’s works take the form of small interventions into everyday life that insert an element of uncertainty into its order. Such incursions included simple gestures like gazing fixedly into the eyes of people encountered on an escalator or bumping into people on a Prague pavement, as attempts to make contact, or, conversely, to break it by suddenly, without comment, running away from a group of friends assembled in a public place.
In her work, Kirsten Pieroth enacts symbolic gestures that question the very nature of what it means to perform an act or produce an artefact. Commissioned for Art Sheffield 08, Pieroth contracted a bicycle messenger to bring a package from Manchester to Sheffield over the Pennines. The package he brought was his own trophy for completing the ride. Photographs of the cyclist’s arduous journey and the contents of the package he carried are exhibited in the gallery.
Hilary Lloyd’s video and slide installations show people casually displaying themselves, or places that look as if they could be a stage for an act or event of a yet unspecified nature. Lloyd carefully studies the intricacies of people’s body language as well as the specific pace at which time passes in particular locations. In doing so, she creates a heightened awareness of the ways in which, on a most basic level, social life is structured through the routines that we perform everyday. Lloyd, however looks at people and places that interrupt these vernacular choreographies and shows how structured routines fall apart in specific places because time there stands still, like it does when you take a break, gaze at something and let your thoughts wander off.
Silke Otto-Knapp’s recent paintings are based on her ongoing study of the ways in which modern ballet has translated patterns of social life into dance. Otto-Knapp appropriates moments from this history and transforms them into pictures that focus the attention on the formalised body language through which dance reflects the relation of the individual to the collective. Isolated from the plot of the ballet, the gestures are no longer designed to tell a story. It is precisely this moment of abstraction (from narrative) that brings out the intrinsic exuberance of the body language of dance.
Janice Kerbel explores the rifts and concurrences between the world of action and the world of plans: drawing up plans, diagrams or blueprints for potential actions or events is her main medium. ‘Remarkable’ (2007), is a series of posters that promote the appearance of spectacular female performers in a vaudeville fashion. Kerbel will also present a new commissioned work, ‘Ball Game (Inning 1)’, in a live performance on Saturday 29 March at 2.30pm.
Full artists list for Art Sheffield 08 includes: Tomma Abts, Michal Budny, Andrew Cook, Vlatka Horvat, Kan Xuan, Kerstin Kartscher, Silke Otto Knapp, Julius Koller, Jiri Kovanda, Ruth Legg, Hilary Lloyd, Deimantas Narkevicius, Ines Schaber, Sean Snyder, Frances Stark, Mladen Stilinovic, Esther Stocker, Nasrin Tabatabai, Wolfgang Tillmans, Tsui Kuang-Yu, Gitte Villesen, Eveline Van Den Berg, Ryszard Wasko, Nicole Wermers, and Xu Tan.
For the event there will be new commissions from Katie Davies, Annika Eriksson, Tim Etchells, Host Artists’ Group, Janice Kerbel, George Henry Longley, Roman Ondak, Kirsten Pieroth, Paul Rooney, Dexter Sinister, Esther Stocker, Neil Webb and Katy Woods.