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Group exhibition centred around Hito Steyerl's powerful work Abstract opens in Glasgow
Barbara Kruger, Untitled (You have searched and destroyed), 1982. © courtesy of the artist and Sprüth Magers Berlin London.

GLASGOW.- Glasgow’s Gallery of Modern Art presents 'Polygraphs', a group exhibition centred around Hito Steyerl’s powerful work Abstract. The new show encourages audiences to question the dominant narrative and explore prevailing truths, fiction and evidence in a complicated world.

Polygraphs presents over 20 works from Glasgow Museums’ collection. It opened to the public on Friday 17 February 2017 in Gallery 4.

Alongside Abstract, the two-channel video work by Berlin based filmmaker and writer Hito Steyerl, gifted to Glasgow Museums by the Contemporary Art Society through the Collections Fund 2015, it showcases work by leading contemporary artists, including Barbara Kruger, Graham Fagen and kennardphillips.

Their work invites the viewer to interrogate the leading historical accounts of our connections to the arms trade, the slave trade, feminism and colonialism. Grouped together the exhibition probes the relationship of museums to the histories, identities and politics that they reflect.

By redisplaying older works by renowned artists including Muirhead Bone, Alastair Gray, Ian Hamilton Finlay and David Hockney, alongside the more recent pieces, Polygraphs reactivates truths and fictions still relevant today.

Caroline Douglas, Director, Contemporary Art Society said: “Hito Steyerl is one of the most acclaimed artists and theorists of her generation. Her work keenly observes and critiques the use and misuse of information in a digital age, as well as the often shadowy connections between military, industrial and cultural institutions. In a period where surveillance has become the norm and ‘alternative facts’ an accepted category, she forces us to question what is documentation and what is propaganda.”

Curator Producer at GoMA, Katie Bruce adds: “Artists are often witness to a changing global situation and their role within that is to document, ask questions and create layers of meaning to engage audiences with current international discourses. Abstract provides a frame through which to encounter other artists in Glasgow’s Collection interested in interrogating the principal stories we’re often told.

“We are delighted to be able to show Hito Steyerl’s work at GoMA. As a powerful piece of documentary film work in its own right, and the first work by the artist to enter a public collection in the UK, this is a wonderful gift from the Contemporary Art Society for GoMA.

“Polygraphs reflects our long-standing interest in research and evidence based documentary artworks and our aim of building a world-class collection of contemporary visual art through the acquisition of important national and international works of art. We hope many people will come and engage with this incredibly thought-provoking exhibition and associated public programme.”

Steyerl is one of the most acclaimed artists of her generation, representing Germany at the 2015 Venice Biennale. Recent institutional solo shows include The Art Institute of Chicago, the Van Abbemuseum, Eidenhoven, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles and The Reina Sofía Museum, Madrid.

Abstract (2012) commemorates Steyerl’s childhood friend Andrea Wolf, who became an activist and revolutionary and was eventually killed in the Kurdish region of Turkey in 1998 when fighting for the PKK. Through Abstract, the artist considers our connectivity to the arms trade, global economics and a seemingly distant battlefield.

Internationally acclaimed Scottish artist Graham Fagen’s work is on display in Polygraphs. His silk screen prints Nancy, Bell, Roselle illustrate the three ships that poet Robert Burns was booked to sail to Jamaica on in August, September and December 1786. They are displayed alongside his works Plans and Records and Portrait of Alvera Coke (AKA Mama Tosh and were originally comissioned by GoMA as part of events to mark the 200th anniversary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act, Fagen made the prints as part of his ongoing fascination with Scottish and West Indian heritage.

Speaking about Polygraphs, artist Graham Fagen said: “At this tumultuous time of potentially huge change I think this is an important show. As an artist part of my role is to capture the changing environment and create new ways of understanding that viewers can explore. It’s essential society continues to question the stories, accounts and explanations we’re presented with.

“In creating these works I was trying to offer something positive and to contribute another voice in the debate about Scotland's role in the Atlantic slave trade. I’m making an attempt to understand the history and how the past continues to impact on the present. All of the other pieces invite the audience to do the same, across a range of subjects.”

The exhibition includes works from Glasgow’s Collection from the last 100 years, bringing together some of the most compelling artists working today, seminal figures in 20th century art and younger artists whose work entered a UK collection for the first time. These include Jane Evelyn Atwood, Muirhead Bone, The Boyle Family, Gerard Byrne, Graham Fagen, Hans-Peter Feldmann, Beth Forde, Alasdair Gray, Ian Hamilton Finlay, David Hockney, Peter Kennard, kennardphillips, Barbara Kruger, Scott Myles, Anthony Schrag and Wyndham Lewis.

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