presents Playing Truant, the first major UK solo exhibition by Libyan Italian artist Adelita Husni-Bey.
Husni-Beys practice is built upon research and collaboration and encompasses drawing, painting, collage, video and participatory workshops. Her work often looks at social relations under different political contexts, from late capitalism to communitarianism. Through existing and newly commissioned work, Playing Truant explores current controversies about the role of state education in England by comparing todays neoliberal understanding of free school with past and present models of self-run or anarchist education.
Setting the scene for the exhibition, the video Postcards from the Desert Island (201011) documents a 3-week workshop organised by the artist with students from the École Vitruve, a selfrun primary school in Paris. Borrowing scenarios from William Golding's novel Lord of the Flies, the children were asked to build a desert island in their school hall. The video shows them grappling with some of the key principles and unresolved problems of self-governance, such as: imagining a life without institutions, questions of punishment and the struggle for power, how to deal with immigration and civil disobedience, and where to draw the distinction between public and private.
Husni-Beys newly commissioned work interrogates differing conceptions of free school. On the one hand it looks at the anarchist roots of free schools that emerged in the United States in the early twentieth century. On the other, it examines the impact of the increasing privitisation of education in England since the 1970s, recently packaged as part of the Conservative partys much contested notion of the Big Society.
To capture this, the artist has produced a sound piece in collaboration with members of New York experimental theatre group The Living Theatre, using material from the archive of the Ferrer Colony and Modern School in Stelton, New Jersey, which dates back to 1911. She has also created a large-scale wall piece that traces key moments in the development of educational policy in England from the 1970s to the present day, culminating in the emergence of a new type of free school at the hands of the current Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government.
The exhibition is the second in a series of solo exhibitions at Gasworks by women artists working with experimental and documentary film and video and is followed by Beatriz Santiago Muñoz from 22 February 21 April 2013.
Adelita Husni-Bey was born in 1985. She studied BA (Hons) Fine Art at Chelsea College of Art and Design and MA Sociology & Urban Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London. Recent exhibitions include: TRACK - A Contemporary City Conversation, S.M.A.K Museum, Ghent, Belgium; Right to Refusal, Magazin4/Kunstverein Bregenz, Bregenz, Austria and A Holiday from Rules, MACRO Museum, Rome. Recent awards include Young Collector Prize / MAXXI Museum acquisition, Rome (2012); Ratti Foundation Residency with Hans Haacke, Como, Italy (2010) and a British Council Grant for Artists Abroad (2008). Husni-Bey is currently undertaking a fellowship as part of the Whitney Museums Independent Study Program, New York.