Being and Appearing is a programme of contemporary visual art at the Swiss Church in London. It aims to support artists to develop new work in response to the architecture or socio-historical context of the Church. In doing so it furthers the dialogue between art and faith established by the Church’s cultural programming over the past six years.
The programme takes its title from German-American political theorist Hannah Arendt’s conception of the 'space of appearance': a temporary space formed when actors meet to discuss matters of public concern. Focusing on site-specific performance-based practices, the programme considers the church as a public space in which communities meet, debate and then disband. The selected projects return performance to a place of worship — in Ancient Greece for example, temples were used for both theatre and religion — as well as referencing the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, celebrated in 2017.
Curated by Kirsty White.
Kindly supported by Arts Council England and the Swiss Church in London.
The Swiss Church in London
79 Endell Street
LOUISA FAIRCLOUGH & RICHARD GLOVER
Friday 24 November, 9pm-12am
Please come and go as you wish or stay for the duration
VOICE IMAGES is a new choral composition that responds to the unique architecture and acoustics of the Swiss Church in London. Devised for an ensemble of six singers, it incorporates three distinct compositions or ‘voice-images’; sonic representations of delirium. Each ‘voice-image’ is designed to be modular — in conversation harmonically and timbrally with one another — and plays with a different cluster of words which sound alike yet shift in meaning with the change of a vowel or consonant. During the performance up to three compositions will occur simultaneously: from the quiet incisive sonority of two singers performing a duet to the polyphonic harmonies of several compositions occurring at one time. The intensity and audible perceptibility of these pieces will transform throughout, altered by the singers’ movement and proximity to each other within the space.
VOICE IMAGES builds on Louisa Fairclough’s solo exhibition, Ground Truth, at Danielle Arnaud Gallery in 2011. The show included two 16mm film installations: Bore Song (2011) and Song of Grief (2013), which formed a minor sixth interval when heard together. This tonal, as well as aesthetic, resonance led Fairclough to consider the works as modular, correlating with Glover’s interest in the perception of repeated musical intervals.
Glover and Fairclough have collaborated on a number of compositions since 2014 including Awkward Relaxed (2014), I wish I could be a stone (2014) and Compositions for a Low Tide (2014), as well as two expanded film installations: Can People See Me Swallowing (2014) and Absolute Pitch (2014). This is the first time they have expanded their research into tonal modularity into a live choral manifestation.
VOICE IMAGES has been workshopped with, and will be performed by the Dieci Voices — a professional vocal ensemble based in London.
In conjunction with the performance, Fairclough is presenting A Song Cycle for the Ruins of a Psychiatric Hospital, a solo exhibition at Danielle Arnaud Gallery 10 November — 9 December 2017.
Louisa Fairclough's practice takes the form of film loops, performances, field recordings and drawings. She was awarded the CMIR Arnolfini bursary 2016 for the sculptural film Awkward Relaxed (forthcoming). Sounding grief: The Severn Estuary as an emotional soundscape co-authored with Owain Jones led to drawings and field recordings from the Thames that were shown at Estuary Festival (2016). Can People See Me Swallowing showed at Contact Film Festival, Apiary Studios (2016), Absolute Pitch and Composition for a Low Tide were commissioned by Whitstable Biennale 2014, Jeannie commissioned by Bristol New Music in 2014, Song of Grief shown at Film in Space, Camden Art Centre (2013), Bore Song acquired by CAS for The Wilson (2013) and recently shown at Rojas + Rubensteen Projects in Miami (2017). Louisa is Associate Lecturer at Oxford Brookes and University of Falmouth. She is passionate about experimental film, and co-founded BEEF in Bristol in 2015.
Richard Glover is a composer and writer based in Birmingham, UK. His music explores gradual process, perception in reductionist sound environments, performer interaction, and experimental approaches to notation. His portrait cd Logical Harmonies was released by Another Timbre to widespread acclaim in 2013, and his music has been performed internationally by ensembles such as the Bozzini Quartet, musikFabrik, BBC Concert Orchestra, and the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group. Glover co-authored the book Overcoming Form with Bryn Harrison, with whom he is currently working on a major publication with Bloomsbury on the temporal experience of experimental musics, due for release in 2018. He has published book chapters and articles on Phill Niblock, Minimalism and Technology, and the perception of sustained tone musics. He is currently Reader in Music at the University of Wolverhampton.
Image: A Gloucester Cathedral chorister sings for Absolute Pitch by Louisa Fairclough & Richard Glover commissioned by Whitstable Biennale 2014. Photo by Milo Newman
Kindly supported by the Swiss Church in London, Wolverhampton University and Arts Council England.
21 – 29 September 2017
In Christopher Marlowe’s 16th century play, Doctor Faustus, the title character is a fabled scholar who is highly successful yet dissatisfied with his life. He makes a pact with the Devil, exchanging his soul for unlimited knowledge and worldly pleasures.
For his exhibition at the Swiss Church in London, Glasgow-based typographer Edwin Pickstone has taken Marlowe’s play as his subject; deconstructing the text so that each of its 12,247 words is isolated and printed on its own page. Carpeting the floor of the main hall, these pages, or flyers, transform what is a weighty text in both content and historical significance to ephemera. The installation thus explores the value of print — how the choice of printing method, surface and print run effects how an object is read, appreciated and valued.
Mirroring the narrative of the play, the text has been processed through a custom written software that progressively distorts the shape of the words. Pickstone likens this to making a ‘pact’ with the program, as he forsakes his control over the end product to pre-set parameters. (In a similar way Faust surrendered his soul to the Devil with little idea of the consequences.) In essence, Pickstone points out, this is our relationship with modern communication technologies — we readily use smart phones, tablets and laptops without knowing their long term affect on human relationships, behaviours and bodies.
The choice of the play was influenced by the installation’s context: the Swiss Church is spiritually rooted in the Swiss Reformation. The play’s emphasis on independent learning and the sin of pride links it to the Protestant Reformation — the schism from the Catholic Church initiated by Martin Luther — that marks its 500th anniversary in 2017. Characterised by the rejection of religious images and icons, the period saw the destruction of thousands of iconographic books and artefacts. In conjunction, the development of the printing press at this time gave rise to the spread of written propaganda throughout Europe that caused new ideas, thoughts, and doctrine to be made available to the public. Pickstone’s installation expands on these two contradictory impulses — one to destroy and the other to disseminate — and takes the title of Biblioclasm, meaning the extreme criticism or destruction of books.
Upstairs, the nod towards iconoclasm continues with a number of prints and artist’s books. 1 gram of black ink squared (2011), is a print that represents the surface area a gram of ink occupies on a page of white paper. Its sister work, the artist’s book 1 kilo of black ink cubed (2017) extends this proposition to a kilogram. Aesthetically, the works are reminiscent of Malevich’s Black Square (1913), arguably the first work to abandon any attempt at pictorial representation (Malevich believed that through abstraction he could represent the “divine in its purest form accessible”).1 Whilst Pickstone’s works concern mathematics and units of measurement rather than spirituality, they are similar to the Russian Suprematist’s in the demand they place on their viewer/reader. A certain degree of imagination is required to visualise the cube of black ink represented by 1 kilo of black ink cubed — like reading a novel, the book’s pages can only take one so far.
In a similar way The Components of War and Peace (2013) quantifies the ingredients required to print a Penguin paperback edition of Tolstoy’s novel. Comprising 671 sheets of paper and 16.3g of ink, the work seeks to question the importance of the physical object in the context of digital technologies. If one can store seemingly unlimited amounts of information in the ‘cloud,’ what is significant about the printed work — its material components?
Focusing on the material nature of print, Pickstone uses letterpress, collaborating with artists and designers on a wide range of projects. His work spans academic, artistic and design worlds, with particular interest in the history of typography, graphic design, print and the nature of the book. Recent collaborative exhibitions include Printshop! with Giles Round at Tramway, Glasgow (2016) and blip blip blip with Ciara Phillips at East Street Arts, Leeds (2015).
Pickstone lives and works in Glasgow. In addition to his art and design work, he is currently keeper of the Caseroom at The Glasgow School of Art, where since 2005 he has cared for the school’s collection of letterpress printing equipment. He has spoken and exhibited internationally.
LEONOR SERRANO RIVAS
May 2017 – May 2018
From May 2017 to May 2018, Leonor Serrano Rivas is developing an ambitious research project at the Swiss Church. It includes a film shot in the Church entitled The dream follows the mouth (of the one who interprets it) (currently in post-production), and a public workshop, The Castle of Crossed Destinies that took place in July 2017.
These two connected projects bookend the first year of continuous artistic programming at the Church — the film is scheduled to be screened in May 2018. They evolve from Serrano Rivas’ interest in the intersection between live action scenes, the spectator and the spatiality of theatre, and are characterised by an aesthetic that marries medieval with ancient Greek.
The dream follows the mouth (of the one who interprets it) is Serrano Rivas’ most ambitious project to date. Made with the help of 4 dancers, a glass harpist, an organist and a cinematographer, it considers the influence that architecture has on activities that exist within, or in relation to it. Unfolding through a series of dramatic scenes that use the mirrored surfaces of the Church to confuse reality with reflection, the film attempts to depict a subconscious world in which the Church plays the main character.
Playing with similar themes, the workshop The Castle of Crossed Destinies invited viewers to enter the set and narrative of The dream follows the mouth… Like the novel by Italian writer Italo Calvino from which the event took its title, viewers were encouraged to find non-verbal means to navigate a series of encounters with the film’s performers, reconstructing for themselves the film’s script. The event was accompanied by a breakfast, inspired by The dream follows the mouth…, cooked by artist Nora Silva.
The dream follows the mouth (of the one who interprets it) will be presented at The Botín Foundation, Santander in January 2018 and the Swiss Church in London in 2018.
Leonor Serrano Rivas is an artist based in London. She completed her MFA at Goldsmiths, University of London in 2016. She has presented solo exhibitions at Sala Santa Isabel Seville, Spain (2016), Galería Marta Cervera, Madrid (2015), Terrassa, Barcelona (2014) and Galleri Rotor, Gothenburg (2011). Recent performances include ‘Between the Mouth and the Nose,' Chisenhale Studios, London (2016) and ‘Yet The Sky Is Still The Same,’ Serpentine Galleries, London (2014).