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Dependency: Group exhibition on view at Gasworks
Marianne Wex, Let's Take Back Our Space: “Female” and “Male” Body Language as a Result of Patriarchal Structures (detail), photograph, 1975-79. Courtesy of the artist.

LONDON.- The group exhibition Dependency explores the “lengthening chains of interdependence” that, according to German sociologist Norbert Elias, bind the micro and macro realms of social life. Presenting works by Patricia L Boyd, Moyra Davey, Melanie Gilligan and Marianne Wex, which all attempt to situate specific objects or actions within broader sociopolitical frameworks, the show reflects upon how material and ideological constructs, from the economy to patriarchy, implicate even the most routine aspects of the day-to-day.

Marianne Wex’s photographic series Let’s Take Back Our Space: “Female” and “Male” Body Language as a Result of Patriarchal Structures (1975-79) presents an extensive taxonomy of the everyday gestures and poses of men and women on the streets of Hamburg in the mid-1970s. Coupled with short texts written by the artist, reproductions from art history books, and cut-outs from German newspapers and magazines, these images examine how male and female bodies have been gradually confined to highly coded and deeply prejudiced habits of movement.

To the unassuming eye, Moyra Davey’s photographs appear like sketches or etchings depicting quiet, civil street scenes, with men and women walking arm in arm against a backdrop of public statues and regal facades. Part of the series Banknotes (1989), they are in fact close-ups of $10 and $100 bills. Rather than grappling with iconographic categories, like Wex, Davey focuses in on details to suggest that currency not only determines how financial transactions are enacted, but also how social relations are administered en mass, with the well-to-do characters shown in each scene further implying that financial structures remain tied to particular forms of bourgeois sociability.

Shifting our attention from the object of financial exchange to its utter obscurity in more recent years, Melanie Gilligan’s series of four short HD videos 4x exchange / abstraction (2014) recount emblematic tales about the everyday traumas of contemporary capitalism. Aping the punchy editing style of TV commercials and incorporating digital techniques such as “datamoshing”, cartoon-style animation and gaudy cross-dissolves, these videos pace quickly and mostly silently through short, often fractured scenes. Two women travel to meet one another on the side of a busy motorway to barter over household items such as detergent and breakfast cereal, for example, while a cutesy but tragically nave animated vase gets mugged of mathematical symbols by a territorial animated fist with eyes. Describing an almost tragic arc, in their deliberate over-styling these videos attest to the limitlessness of marketisation.

Finally, a new commission by Patricia L Boyd focuses on the metal structure by Gasworks' entrance – a heavy piece of steel with a flexible set of functions that engineer both the visibility and security of the building – and uses it to reflect back on architectural discourses of accessibility.

Dependency is the fourth exhibition of The Civilising Process, a year-long programme of exhibitions and events at Gasworks inspired by German sociologist Norbert Elias’ eponymous 1939 book, which looks at the development of the tastes, manners and sensibilities of Western Europeans since the Middle Ages. Between October 2013 and November 2014 Gasworks is working with invited artists to tackle a wide range of issues raised by this book in an attempt to understand their relevance for contemporary debates and practices. The Civilising Process comprises five exhibitions, a programme of interdisciplinary events, contributions to Gasworks’ online platform Pipeline and a printed publication.

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