11 January 2017

Exhibition Announcement:Jerwood/FVU Awards 2017: Neither One Thing or Another

Two newly commissioned moving-image works by recipients of the 2017 Awards, Patrick Hough and Lawrence Lek, will premiere at an exhibition at Jerwood Space, London, 22 March - 14 May 2017.  

In response to 2017's curatorial theme, Neither One Thing or Another, Hough and Lek both employ pioneering, conceptually fitting, technologies to examine the steadily blurring line between the real and the artificial. In Geomancer, Lek harnesses his trademark - the building blocks of computer gaming technology - to set the stage for an awakening of artificial intelligence. Hough’s film And If In A Thousand Years takes us to the Californian desert, where the landscape was filmed and digitally scanned using LiDAR, to host a Hollywood-inspired merging of authenticity and replica. Both works delve between definitions of consciousness, and in the process invite us to look again at what we think we know and see.

Since their selection in May 2016, the artists have each received £20,000 to develop the works, with full production support from FVU. Following their debut at Jerwood Space in London, the films will tour as a series of screening events nationwide.

And If In A Thousand Years by Patrick Hough

When the film-set for Cecil B DeMille’s The Ten Commandments had had its day, it was, like the biblical civilisation it evoked, lost to the sands of time - in its case, deliberately buried, in an act of money-saving expediency, under the dunes of the Southern California desert where the movie was shot. Over the years, though, those shifting sands have gradually exposed this piece of epic landfill, bringing souvenir hunters to gather where archaeologists (or Egyptologists) used to tread.

In Patrick Hough’s video, shot on location at the site, it is not just fake fragments of the past that are disinterred. What hovers over the place is a spirit of uncertainty; one that questions bedrock values like ‘originality’ and ‘authenticity’ and dusts them with other layers of meaning: the extraordinary ease of reproducibility, the spray-on glamour of cinematic semi-celebrity. This spirit of uncertainty is encapsulated by the figure of a sphinx - once part of the décor of the majestic film-set, now wandering in ghostly limbo; haunting the nearby town like a wildcat on the prowl. The sphinx’s hybrid form and cryptic, enigmatic presence is also a symbol of a blurring between the material and the virtual that Hough’s video not only proposes but visibly enacts, using sophisticated digital scanning techniques to suggest the outline of a new technological horizon that is, even as we look back nostalgically at the remnants of earlier eras, writing its own name upon the sand.

Geomancer by Lawrence Lek

Heralded by the futuristic computer-generated cityscapes that have become a signature feature of his work, Lawrence Lek’s mini-opus Geomancer is less inclined to map the building blocks of the urban architecture of tomorrow than to try and summon up the spirit of our rapidly dawning age - one whose characteristics, Lek implies, include the growing ascendancy of the cultural phenomenon of Sino-Futurism. As the geopolitical axis tilts further to the East, and as once-dominant economic/technological models are cast into doubt, Lek alights on a longstanding tension between the place of the human and the role of the machine, sharpened by contemporary hopes and anxieties around the rise of East Asia, and by speculations that new forms of artificial intelligence, already outperforming mere mortals in matters of automation and aggregation, will challenge us in more creative skills as well.

In Lek’s video, one such AI awakens above Singapore on the eve of the city-state’s centennial celebrations in 2065. Mindful of the apparent relegation of AI to subservient roles in society, it determines that, from all the possible choices available to it, by far the best thing to be is to be an artist. Already a prodigy with numbers, it seeks to feed the other side of its savant-like brain, gorging on the products of cultural history with a geeky frenzy that occasionally undermines its aspiration to the lofty coolness of a lotus-eating aesthete. Part philosophical reflection on where ‘genius’ resides, part playful inventory of how science fiction has dealt with these eternal human/ automaton themes, Geomancer is provocative stimulation for both the eye and the mind.

The artists were selected from over 240 applications by; Steven Bode, Director, FVU; Duncan Campbell, artist and Turner Prize 2014 winner; Cliff Lauson, Curator, Hayward Gallery; Amy Sherlock, Reviews Editor; and Sarah Williams, Head of Programme, Jerwood Visual Arts.

On the two works, panelist and Reviews Editor Amy Sherlock commented:

“Both selected artists, Patrick Hough and Lawrence Lek, use a temporal framework to approach the question of indeterminacy: one looking forward to a future where machines may write their own histories; the other considering the imaginative leap involved in looking backwards, and the ways in which, narratively and materially, we fabricate the past. I am excited not only to see the results of these two ambitious projects, but also how they will sit alongside one another in the Jerwood/FVU Awards exhibition.”

On development and production of the works, FVU Director Steven Bode commented:

“It is always wonderful watching an artist’s work transform from an idea on paper into tangible, polished reality. Even more so in the case of Lawrence Lek and Patrick Hough, whose approaches to this year’s Awards have been so formally exciting and conceptually audacious. Not to mention technically original, with their mobilisation of leading-edge digital imaging and voice synthesis. It has been a pleasure helping these exceptional works reach fruition.”

The Jerwood/FVU Awards are a collaboration between Jerwood Charitable Foundation and FVU. FVU is supported by Arts Council England.

jerwoodfvuawards.com