To coincide with the Southbank Centres Festival of Love (28 June - 31 August 2014), Hayward Gallery
Project Space presents a group exhibition that explores the verbal and visual languages of love and the many ways that such gestures are mediated through social and cultural codes. This exhibition premieres a specially commissioned programme of site specific performances as well as new sculptural works.
The participating artists Anna Barham, William Cobbing, Sharon Hayes, Joanna Piotrowska and Ilona Sagar share an interest in exploring the particular emotional and physical choreography of intimacy and the paradoxical power-shifts that accompany longing and desire.
The works take different approaches to investigating specific constructs of love and how it is influenced by external forces. Beyond the intimacy between individuals, the exhibition addresses wider concerns and societal forces which shape our experience of love and intimacy, including the ways in which politics, popular culture and the built environment affect language and the body.
William Cobbing tackles the possibilities and processes of love through a selection of video works and a new series of kinetic sculptures using oil-clay. Through scenarios that position a struggle to overcome obstacles alongside a failure of communication, the desire to blend, to come together, yet be empowered and liberated is ultimately rendered unattainable.
The mechanics of romantic speech, and language are appropriated in both a film piece by Ilona Sagar and in an audio installation by Sharon Hayes. Every lunchtime during a working week in September 2007, Hayes emerged from the corporate headquarters of UBS in midtown Manhattan, to speak to an anonymous lover. Her addresses, which form the basis of this work, weave comments on and about personal longing and desire with comments about politics, war and the trauma and dislocation of living in a moment of war. Sagars work also treads a line between lovers address and political message; mixing the sensual with bureaucratic jargon. Alluding to the language of love letters and erotic fiction, both works expose our accustomed use of universal modes of expression to overcome the difficulties of verbalising individual feelings.
Anna Barham disrupts the emotion of a familiar 1970s disco classic love hit by using dictation software which which repeatedly interprets and mediates the live voice reading the lyrics out loud. Recalling the format of 'chinese whispers' or exquisite corpses, the newly 'interpreted' text is in turn read by a subsequent participant. Each new reading generates its own interpretation, resulting in a series of misinterpretations which turn the familiar expressions of love into a chain of subtle displacements and slippages of meaning.
In Joanna Piotrowskas black-and-white photographs love is shown as a carefully staged and choreographed physical endeavor. Using bodies to form almost sculptural arrangements, she conveys a series of disconnected moments of intimacy. Our reading of these portraits is further complicated when we learn that they are of siblings, parents, and other family members presented in stark contrast to traditional family portraiture.
Curated by Dominik Czechowski, Rahila Haque and Eimear Martin, What's Love Got to Do with It seeks to uncover the complex frameworks that surround the way we as individuals and as a society articulate love, and to confront its inherently intangible nature and universal significance.