Exhibitions Archive

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  • ‘Let’s Take Back Our Space’
curated by Mike Sperlinger
    ‘Let’s Take Back Our Space’ curated by Mike Sperlinger
  • ‘Let’s Take Back Our Space’
curated by Mike Sperlinger
    ‘Let’s Take Back Our Space’ curated by Mike Sperlinger
  • ‘Let’s Take Back Our Space’
curated by Mike Sperlinger
    ‘Let’s Take Back Our Space’ curated by Mike Sperlinger
  • ‘Let’s Take Back Our Space’
curated by Mike Sperlinger
    ‘Let’s Take Back Our Space’ curated by Mike Sperlinger
  • ‘Let’s Take Back Our Space’
curated by Mike Sperlinger
    ‘Let’s Take Back Our Space’ curated by Mike Sperlinger
  • ‘Let’s Take Back Our Space’
curated by Mike Sperlinger
    ‘Let’s Take Back Our Space’ curated by Mike Sperlinger
  • ‘Let’s Take Back Our Space’
curated by Mike Sperlinger
    ‘Let’s Take Back Our Space’ curated by Mike Sperlinger
  • ‘Let’s Take Back Our Space’
curated by Mike Sperlinger
    ‘Let’s Take Back Our Space’ curated by Mike Sperlinger
  • ‘Let’s Take Back Our Space’
curated by Mike Sperlinger
    ‘Let’s Take Back Our Space’ curated by Mike Sperlinger
  • ‘Let’s Take Back Our Space’
    curated by Mike Sperlinger
    Robert Morris, Marianne Wex, Cerith Wyn Evans
  • 26 October to 14 December 2009
  • Selected images from Let's Take Back Our Space, Marianne Wex, 1973 to 1977.

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Listen to Mike Sperlinger interview Marianne Wex about the origins of her project Let's Take Back Our Space, and her life since making it:

‘When an acquaintance greets me on the street by lifting his hat, what I see from a formal point of view is nothing but the change of certain details within a configuration forming part of the general pattern of colour, lines and volumes which constitutes my world of vision. When I identify, as I automatically do, this configuration as an object (gentleman), and the change of detail as an event (hat-lifting), I have already overstepped the limits of purely formal perception and entered of a first sphere of subject matter or meaning…’ – Erwin Panofsky, Meaning in the Visual Arts


Body language is, as the late Big Brother has taught us, inescapable. How we read, record, imitate and interpret gestures informs everything about our daily lives, from culture and convention to our most ‘natural’ and intimate relationships. ‘Let’s Take Back Our Space’ brings together the work of three artists – Robert Morris, Marianne Wex and Cerith Wyn Evans – who, in their radically different ways, explore body language as something at once urgent and inherently

ambiguous.

The show takes its title from an encyclopaedic photographic project by the German artist Marianne Wex. Over several years in the mid-1970s Wex, who had originally been a painter, built up an extraordinary archive of thousands of images of people, which she began to categorise according to their body language. Mixing her own street photographs with images clipped from newspapers and advertisements, she cumulatively catalogued the way that male and female identities were formed and reinforced through everyday gestures; the way, as she put it, that they ‘took up space’. Then she began to cast her net even wider, examining ancient and mediaeval sculpture for clues about the history of gendered poses. Finally, she began to ask volunteers to act out some of the most characteristic postures of both sexes for the camera. Wex combined the resulting photographs in dozens of large-scale panels, which were exhibited and also published as a book. Mixing documentary photography with collage, feminist polemic and art history, Wex sought to expose the sexual and social stereotypes

that inform even our apparently most casual, personal gestures. At Focal Point Gallery, a selection from Wex’s vast archive will be shown publicly for the first time in almost three decades.

Wex’s photographic project is accompanied by two other works in the exhibition. The first is Robert Morris’s 21.3 (1964); originally a performance made by the artist while he was studying and teaching art history in New York, the action was subsequently re-staged with an actor and filmed by Babette Mangolte in 1994. In the work, the performer lip-synchs a famous art history lecture by Erwin Panofsky called ‘Studies in Iconology’ from 1939, which discusses the different levels of how we understand the everyday gesture of someone raising their hat –
a typical greeting of the era, which might now seem quaint. In Morris’s staging, the performer imitates all the extraneous recorded movements of Panofsky’s speech (a cough, a sip of water, shuffling papers), as carefully as they lip-synch the words, subtly undoing the presuppositions –
art historical and political

– of Panofsky’s text.

The second accompanying moving image work is Cerith Wyn Evans’s Kim Wilde Audition Tapes (1996), which, we are told, consists of footage the artist discovered in a skip in Soho. Male models audition in a studio for a role in a pop video, responding to the off-screen director’s prompts to act naturally with excruciating self-consciousness. Under the cold eye of the camera, body language and male sexuality are manufactured for commercial ends.

Robert Morris was born in 1931 in Kansas City. He is widely recognised as one of the most significant American artists of his generation. Recent major shows include ‘A Minimal Future? Art As Object 1958-1968’, MoCA, Los Angeles (2004); ‘Out of Time – A Contemporary View’, MoMA, New York (2007); ‘Morning Start Evening Star’, Sprüth Magers Gallery, London (2008), and ‘Konzept Aktion Sprache’ at MUMOK, Vienna (2008).

Marianne Wex was born in Hamburg in 1937. From 1963 until 1980 she worked as a teacher. She then left Germany and travelled to various countries,

including New Zealand, where she learnt about self-healing. In the late 1980s she studied under the healer Lily Cornford in London; since then she has given talks and run seminars on self-healing in Germany and elsewhere.

Cerith Wyn Evans was born in 1958 in Wales. He lives and works in London. Recent solo exhibitions include MIT List Visual Arts Centre, and Museum of Fine Arts,
Boston (2004); Frankfurter Kunstverein (2004); Kunsthaus Graz (2005); Musée d’art moderne de la ville de Paris, Paris (2006); MUSAC, Leon (2008); Inverleith House, Edinburgh (2009), and Tramway, Glasgow (2009).

Mike Sperlinger is assistant director of LUX, London. As as a freelance writer he has contributed to publications including Afterall, Frieze and Texte zur Kunst, and is the editor of two books: Afterthought: New Writing on Conceptual Art (Rachmaninoffs, 2005) and Kinomuseum: Towards an Artists' Cinema (Walther Koenig, 2008).

A publication Let’s Take Back Our Space will be available during the exhibition, and include a conversation between Marianne Wex and Mike Sperlinger. ISBN 978-1-907185-03-8. Price £8.00

For further information and images
on this exhibition, please contact
Laura Bowen, Focal Point Gallery Exhibition and Marketing Officer
on 01702 534 108
laurabowen@southend.gov.uk.

‘Let’s Take Back Our Space’ is generously supported by Arts Council England, Southend Borough Council, The Goethe Institut, London and Bildwechsel, Hamburg.