BOLD TENDENCIES 2021 ARCADIA
Glance at the sun. See the moon and the stars.
Gaze at the beauty of the Earth’s greenings.
— Hildegard of Bingen
The needle skipped the groove of the present.
Into this dark forest you have already turned.
— Timothy Morton
We humans long for an “outside” to the burdens of modernity, a yearning as utopian as it is convenient. We dream of uncorrupted idylls of land and labour, conjure a wilderness unspoiled by avarice and atrocity—William Morris called it “the childhood of the world”. Now more than ever we crave this outside: to capitalism, fossil fuels and overcrowded cities; to technological surveillance, social media and insomnia; to structural inequality, racism and police brutality. An archaic vision of Earth—and our place within it—exhumed, aroused and ignited. Arcadia isn’t hope, still less optimism: it is need, and it is desire.
Arcadia never was that of Rousseau’s ‘State of Nature’—a timeless garden to which we must return—but the dark forest of Morton, alive with the dancing of flora and fauna, pagan subjects and rapturous all-night ravers; the thunder of quarries, fox hunts and the clamours of courting bird-song; the eerie rhythms of non-human forces, felt in the foreignness of abandoned landscapes as in our own bodies. All points of supposed perfection have a hint of menace: Arcadia is a vexed and veering universe, where national pride slides into fascism and rural bliss surrenders to nostalgia; a last gasp of the human in the more-than-human world, where utopian dreams face an open grave.
Conflicts and contradictions ignite our Arcadia —between science and mysticism, rural and metropolitan, outside and other. Our 2021 Programme will explore what drives our desperation for the outside, what Arcadia renders possible today and what is prohibited by it.
We will explore what happens when our connection to nature—and to each other—frays and unravels, when architectures of the past fall to ruin, and who is and isn’t included in the cities and homes that we call ours. The past would seek to foreclose these questions with self-evident truths and a fear of the other; the truth for Arcadia, is that the past is yet to be discovered.
Back in the days of bare feet, 2021
Back in the days of bare feet considers the effect of time on our sense of longing, loss and fantasy. Cast in raw aluminium, the work functions as a sundial composed of a pair of legs strapped in knee-high Go-go boots and eleven frog heads, their eyes raised in anticipation.
Derived from the ancient French word la gogue — meaning “joy” or “happiness” — the boots are an enduring symbol of the Swinging Sixties, representing rebellion, sexual promiscuity and freedom. Prompted by a conversation between the artist and their mother, each element of the sundial references a shifting fantasy of female liberation and a socially constructed narrative of “what women want”.
Whether through fairy tale or social activism, the sculpture references the nostalgic shadow time casts on each generation’s desire for a romanticised and unattainable past.
Rebecca Ackroyd is an artist working across drawing, sculpture, painting and writing. Interested in the physical connection to loss and absence, Ackroyd’s work anchors itself amidst an unknown trauma or tragedy yet to come. Her practice dissects the relationship between discursive and abstract forms, presenting a raw confrontation with history and environment, psychological wonder and its macabre, unsettling disturbances.
Rebecca Ackroyd (b. 1987, Cheltenham) lives and works in Berlin. Akroyd graduated from the Royal Academy Schools in 2015 after completing her BA in Fine Art at Byam Shaw School of Art. In 2021, Ackroyd presented her latest solo exhibition at Peres Projects, Berlin, following solo shows in 2020 at Lockup International, London, and Galleri Opdahl, Stavanger, and group exhibitions at Nir Altman, Munich, PUBLIC Gallery, London, and Christine Koenig Galerie, Vienna. Recent solo exhibitions also include at Fondazione Pomodoro, Milan (2019); Peres Projects, Berlin (2018); Zabludowicz Collection, London (2017); and Outpost Gallery, Norwich (2017). In 2019, Ackroyd was exhibited at the 15e Biennale de Lyon, and in 2018, at the Centre Régional d’Art Contemporain Occitanie, Sète.
In 2013, her work was included in Bloomberg New Contemporaries (ICA, London and Spike Island, Bristol). Recent group exhibitions include: Braunsfelder, Cologne (2018); Copperfield Gallery, London (2018); Chapter Gallery, Cardiff (2017); Sara Zanin Gallery, Rome (2017); Studio Voltaire, London (2016); Eastside Projects, Birmingham (2016); Studio Leigh, London (2016); Kinman Gallery, London (2016); Herald St, London (2016); Galleri Opdahl, Stavanger (2016); David Roberts Art Foundation, London (2015); and Whitechapel Gallery, London (2015).
Either and After/Sun Dogs, 2021
Either and After/Sun Dogs is composed of two twisted-steel spines, wooden ribs and shifting faces captured in mid-flight, cast in brass resin and concrete. Scrutinising the classical view of nature as composed of discrete rational parts, the sculpture is inspired by Medieval representations of multiplicity and the inexplicable.
Centered around the celestial phenomena known as parhelia — when sunlight is refracted by ice crystals and produces an illusion of two ghost lights flanking the sun (known as sun dogs or mock suns) — Either and After/Sun Dogs embodies this natural glitch as a source of liberation, personified as multiple aspects of a single persona.
Installed in the Derek Jarman Garden, the work addresses how our understanding of the natural world is subject to the trickery of decoys and misapprehension, celebrating a dynamic and queer ecology of interstitial beings and unknown magical powers.
Frances Drayson has a multifaceted practice that spans drawing, sculpture, sound design and installation. Recent works have drawn on European secular and religious traditions to evoke overlapping sites of production, commune and control. These works have included references to Medieval churches, industrial farming, minimalism and fascist architecture. In each case, Drayson makes visible their binaries, multiples and mutations, testing the aesthetic devices of power.
Frances Drayson (b. 1986, London) lives and works in London. They hold a post-graduate degree in Fine Art from the Royal Academy of the Arts (2019). In October 2020, Drayson presented their most recent solo exhibition, Crypsis Pairing, at Art Lacuna, London, following consecutive solo shows at Lily Brooke (2019); White Cubicle (2018); URBANEK (2017); and Coleman Projects (2015). Recent group exhibitions include Collective Ending HQ (2020), 55 Great Marlborough Street (2019) and Royal Academy of Arts (2019).
Drayson has exhibited in Italy at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Bozen, and at Glurns Art Point, Glorenza, where they were artist-in-residence for 2016. Drayson is Lecturer in Fine Art at Kingston School of Art and Kensington and Chelsea College. They are a member of the Auto Italia Steering Committee 2020 – 2022 and were a recipient of the Andre Dunoyer de Segonzac Travel Prize and the Gilbert Bayes Grant, both in 2019.
In 1989 an estimated 200,000 participants in the Gay and Lesbian Liberation Day March passed in front of this billboard. First displayed in New York across from the Stonewall Inn, “Untitled” is a commemoration of the Stonewall Uprising that followed a police raid on the bar in 1969, sparking widespread demonstrations in response to human rights injustices and the lack of government action surrounding the AIDS epidemic.
This work has an enduring power and relevance as a symbol for inclusive civic values and the celebration of free public space in the city. Described by the artist as “a monument for a community that has been historically invisible”, it is a salient reminder of the price marginalised communities face in their struggle to be recognised and embraced by the places in which they live.
Courtesy of Andrea Rosen, Estate of Felix Gonzalez-Torres.
Felix Gonzalez-Torres was known for his landmark installations that transform humble objects into solemn meditations on death and intimacy. Working during the height of the AIDS crisis, his work conveys subjects of love and loss, sickness and rejuvenation, gender and sexuality through a variety of emotionally charged objects such as strings of lightbulbs, empty beds, and burnt-out candles. A precursor to many forms of socially-engaged arts practices, his work motivates social action by asking viewers to participate in establishing their meaning.
Felix Gonzalez-Torres (b. 1967, Cuba) lived and worked in New York. Gonzalez-Torres received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1989 and 1993. He participated in hundreds of group shows during his lifetime, including early presentations at Artists Space and White Columns in New York (1987 and 1988, respectively), the Whitney Biennial (1991), the Venice Biennale (1993), SITE Santa Fe (1995), and the Sydney Biennial (1996).
Comprehensive retrospective exhibitions of his work have been organised by the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles (1994); Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (1995); Sprengel Museum Hannover, Germany (1997); and Biblioteca Luis-Angel Arango, Bogotá (2000). Other exhibitions have been held at the Hamburger Bahnhof-Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin (2006–07); PLATEAU, Seoul (2012); and Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul (2012).
A survey of his work, Specific Objects without Specific Form, was organised by WIELS, Centre d’Art Contemporain, Brussels (2010), and then traveled to the Fondation Beyeler, Basel (2010), and the Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt am Main (2011). In 2007, Gonzalez-Torres was selected to represent the United States at the Venice Biennale in the exhibition Felix Gonzalez-Torres: America. He died in Miami on January 9, 1996.
In Praise of Folly, 2021
In Praise of Folly is a colossal cartoon boulder facade installed on top of Peckham Library, viewable from below in Peckham Square and as part of the London skyline as seen from Bold Tendencies. Inspired by the history of architectural follies — ornamental buildings with no practical purpose that first came to prominence in 18th century England — this cosmic intervention shifts their original focus from the ideals of Romanticism and landscape architecture to the irrational physics of cartoon scenery.
Mimicking the precarious boulders of Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner, In Praise of Folly is an ominous incursion of the cartoon landscape into real-life urban spectacle, questioning distinctions of nature and artifice in the context of the governing laws that oversee our contemporary world. A telescope and lectern help contextualise the supernatural boulder within a broader history of the “Genealogy of Follies”.
Andy Holden’s work spans sculpture, installation, painting, pop music, performance and video. Often starting with an examination of an anecdote or a personal encounter, these moments are then unpacked and expanded in an attempt to make sense of a larger philosophical idea.
Andy Holden (b. 1982, Bedfordshire) lives and works in Bedford. Recent solo exhibitions include Natural Selection, commissioned by Artangel and touring to Leeds Art Gallery, Towner Gallery Eastbourne and Bristol Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art, Toronto, and the 2016 Glasgow International, where Holden premiered his acclaimed animated video Laws of Motion in a Cartoon Landscape. Laws of Motion was subsequently included in the Future Generation Art Prize in Kiev and at the 2017 Venice Biennale, and then toured to New York, Canada, Germany, Dubai and China. He has shown at Zabludowicz Collection, Kettle’s Yard, Benaki Museum, Athens, and Tate Britain, amongst others.
Holden performs regularly with his band The Grubby Mitts and runs the project space, Ex-Baldessarre, in Bedford. In 2012 he was awarded the Paul Hamlyn Award and his work is included in the collection of Tate and Arts Council England. His work will be included in the 2021 British Art Show and from Oct 2021 – Mar 2022 Holden will curate a major group exhibition, Beano: The Art of Breaking The Rules, at Somerset House, London. Holden is Visiting Lecturer in Contemporary Art Practice at Royal College of Arts.
no more quick, quick, slow, 2021
no more quick, quick, slow uses six short words to explore the legacy and ongoing tension of race relations in the United Kingdom. It is a call to action, to do and dance better — inspired by a quote in Britain’s ‘Brown Babies’ by Lucy Bland, “We English girls took to it like ducks to water. No more quick, quick, slow for us. This was living.”
Speaking to the role of dance in the history of multiculturalism and their own personal experience as a queer Black womxn, the work emphasises the importance of racial and social justice, not only in political calls against police brutality but in our economic and cultural landscapes too. First shown here during the worldwide 2020 Black Lives Matter protests, the work challenges what “to lead” really means, and who has the privilege and power to do so.
Rene Matić’s work explores the immeasurable dimensions of Blackness through the lens of their own personal experiences as a queer, Black womxn living in the diaspora. Working across painting, sculpture, film, photography and textile, Matić aims to expose, combat and question the power relations that pervade society.
Rene Matić (b. 1997, Peterborough) lives and works in London. They hold a BA in Fine Art from Central St. Martins (2020). They have exhibited and performed internationally, including at Autograph ABP, Atrium Gallery and Arcadia Missa in London, The Royal Standard, Liverpool, Rile Space, Brussels, Hume Gallery, Chicago, and Attic Space, Nottingham. In 2018 Matić was commissioned to make a new work for the Black Cultural Archives in Brixton by Tate and the Mayor of London. In 2020, Matić was included in Bloomberg New Contemporaries; the group show, Friends and Friends of Friends, at Schlossmuseum, Linz, Autria; and had their first solo show in London at VITRINE Gallery. They are currently exhibiting at Kunsthall Stavanger a part of LEAN, a group exhibition curated by Legacy Russell (until 25 April 2021).
Hail the New Prophets, 2021
Hail the New Prophets is inspired by legendary jazz musician Sun Ra and his extraterrestrial mothership from the 1974 film, Space is the Place. Born in 1914 in Alabama, Sun Ra was an avant-garde musician who fused free jazz with new electronic keyboards and synthesisers. Sun Ra’s cosmic trademark reflected a visionary philosophy that promoted self-determination through the power of myth-making and prophecy — responsive to his own experience of discrimination as a Black man in America.
Drawing from Sun Ra’s Afrofuturist mythology, Hail the New Prophets is an interactive spaceship that appeals to freedom and adventure through speculative thinking. We are empowered to shape our own narrative and identity and assert that there is no place that cannot be called home. An open call of ‘messages for the future’ plays from the ship.
Warning: this artwork contains flashing lights.
Harold Offeh is an artist working across performance, video, photography, learning and social arts practice. Offeh is interested in the space created by the inhabiting or embodying of histories. He employs humour as a means to confront the viewer with historical narratives and contemporary culture, grappling with issues such as colonialism, the dynamics of work, labour and gender, and ideals of masculine power.
Harold Offeh (b. 1977, Ghana) lives and works in Cambridge and London. Offeh has exhibited widely including at Tate Britain and Tate Modern, South London Gallery, Turf Projects, Kettle’s Yard, Wysing Art Centre, Studio Museum Harlem, MAC VAL, France, Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Denmark, Museum of African Diaspora, San Francisco, and Art Tower Mito. Offeh is Reader in Fine Art at Leeds Beckett University and a Visiting Tutor at the Royal College of Art and Goldsmiths College. In 2019 he was a recipient of the Paul Hamlyn Foundation Award for Artists, the largest award of its kind in the UK.
Upcoming commissions include a new video work exploring the redemptive power of joy through social dance for On Happiness at the Wellcome Collection, and a children’s play area for Bluecoat Contemporary Art Centre, Liverpool. Offeh will exhibit as part of Untitled, Art on the Conditions of Our Time, a major exhibition of British artists of African descent at Kettle’s Yard, and Reading the Real at Leeds Art Gallery. Offeh will co-curate a major group exhibition in Birmingham with Eastside Projects, exploring the relationship between performance, the body, time and technology.
The Granary, 2021
The Granary is a life-sized sculpture of a traditional English grain store. Still in use in countryside locations such as the artist’s hometown in Faversham, Kent, granaries are an archetypal structure of agrarian and pastoral life. Towering at an unusual height, The Granary is finished in pearlescent candy orange, chosen to represent the desire to return to an idyllic, rose-tinted past.
Despite its indulgence to this fantasy, The Granary is also a beaten, forced and frustrated product. It reflects a brutal reality of material hardship, discord, class division and racism, as well as the fear and uncertainty of what we have lost or stand to lose from crises affecting rural life today. The Granary speaks as much to a need to overcome these crises as it does to the vexed rhetoric that underpins established visions of the nation, its heritage and our place within it.
Jesse Pollock creates work that reflects the vestiges of rural England. Raised in Faversham, Kent, Pollock uses welded steel and silicone to create sculptures which refer to the shifting—and conflicting—interplay of our relationship to landscape and tradition. Focusing on agricultural tools such as teapots, fruit ladders, cider flagons and rifles, his work juxtaposes bucolic convention with a distorted and contested reality.
Jesse Pollock (b. 1993, Gillingham) lives and works in Kent. They hold a BA in Illustration from Camberwell College of Arts (2015). Recent group exhibitions have taken place at Chatham House, London (2016); Hannah Barry Gallery, London (2018); Steve Turner, Los Angeles (2019); and Choi and Lager, Cologne (2019). In 2020, Pollock had their first two solo exhibitions: The Garden of England, Steve Turner, Los Angeles, US, and Shooting Starlings, Archive 18-20, Paris, FR. Pollock also presented new sculpture at La Totale Collective, Boissy-le-Châtel, FR; Contemporary Sculpture Fullmer, Brooke Bennington, Buckinghamshire, UK; and Nourishment II, V.O Curations, London, UK. In 2021, Pollock will show with Carl Kostyál Gallery in Sweden as part of a large-scale group exhibition, HOSPITALET.