School of Music and Fine Art

Inspired Teaching Cutting Edge Research


Between a Rock and a Hard Place(2015)
Images of works: Too Prolix: A Tour Out of Time (2015) [Video document];The Delicate Attachment… (2015) [Palaeolithic-style handprints]; The Body of the Worker (2014) [Found museum mannequin]

Between a Rock and a Hard Place was a solo exhibition at Five Years, London.

The exhibition is one manifestation of a research project that draws inspiration from contemporary philosophy and its on-going struggle to define human agency in relation to ‘material conditions’. The show includes video documentation of a performance, realised in 2014. This piece took worker-disputes in British Royal Dockyards of the 18th Century as indicative of the wider social upheavals within Europe of that time.  Was the exorbitant rhetoric of the Dockyard workers, their prolixity, evidence of ‘Jacobean influence’? Klee thought so and emphasised the workers’ evasion of their social destiny by having their words performed in the mannered gestural acting-style associated with the 18th Century elite. Every turn of the head or hand movement conveyed a meaning…

Let’s shift the frame. What if rhetoric, itself a type of representation, does not only perform but can touch reality, indexing matter? According to this logic human representations, from Palaeolithic handprints to HD videos, operate via a delicate but universal attachment to the ontological real. Is this real an intractable limit to the exercise of human agency or does it open up a new vista within which human volition might be re-thought?

It would seem that rhetoric (representation) either as performance or index is the key term, perhaps it is time to think through its definition once more.

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Last Updated: 27/02/2017