Contemporary society's relationship with architecture explored in a major exhibition

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Contemporary society's relationship with architecture explored in a major exhibition
Langlands & Bell, Marseille, Cité Radieuse, 2001. Photograph: Steve White. Southampton City Art Gallery. Image courtesy of the artists.

LONDON.- Langlands & Bell: Degrees of Truth (4 March – 31 May 2020) will be Sir John Soane’s Museum’s most ambitious partnership with a contemporary artist to date. Taking place at a moment when some commentators contend we have entered a ‘post-truth’ era, Langlands & Bell: Degrees of Truth will reflect on the capacities of architecture to bear witness to the technological, political, economic and cultural relationships that define contemporary society.

Ranging from the found objects Langlands & Bell gathered from the rubble and detritus of Whitechapel in the early 1980s, to their recent explorations of the slick hyper-determined buildings of Silicon Valley’s tech giants, the exhibition will explore the disconnects that exist between the narratives that buildings, objects and images are intended to convey and those they inadvertently reveal.

This major show, bringing together over four decades of work by Langlands & Bell, will take place throughout the Museum’s iconic spaces. New works and pieces borrowed from collections across the country will create a dialogue with architect Sir John Soane’s collection of art and antiquities. Works featured will range from Traces of Living (first made in 1986), an installation in which the refuse and relics of everyday life are embedded into tables and chairs, to the Turner prize-nominated The House of Osama bin Laden (2003), a multimedia installation in which visitors use a joystick to navigate a digital recreation of Osama bin Laden’s former home. The points where individual experiences meet architecture will be considered in recent works exploring the headquarters of tech giants, including Apple, Sunny Vale (2017), and in early works including Interlocking Chair (1995).

The exhibition will also include a major new artwork conceived for Soane’s iconic LibraryDining Room. Grand Tour is an installation that explores the cultural resonances of the eighteenth-century tradition from which it draws its name. Featuring a series of white lacquered hand-made chairs containing models under glass of historic buildings we know were visited by Soane on the grand tour, or notable contemporary buildings that he would surely visit were he making the tour today. A new sculpture of a globe featuring the air routes of the world will also be installed in the Breakfast Room. Requiring visitors to turn the globe, the piece will consider the importance of travel to Sir John Soane, as well as the place of international travel and communication today.

Langlands & Bell’s work explores the complex web of relationships linking people, architecture and the coded systems of communication we use to negotiate a fast-changing technological world. Their art ranges from film, video and digital media projects to sculpture, installation, and full-scale architecture.

Langlands & Bell say: ‘Nearly all of our art, one way or another, is about spaces, structures, networks and the human and social relationships they embody. We find evidence of the relationships between people, from the personal to the political, everywhere. Our interest is in revealing the poetry and beauty in our surroundings and distilling them to their essence’.

Exhibition curator, Owen Hopkins, says: ‘Across their career Langlands & Bell have consistently sought to unpick the interrelationship of ideas, forms and histories through which architecture is conceived and experienced. In this they have much in common with Sir John Soane’s own conception of architecture, embodied in his house and collection with which their exhibition will create a powerful synthesis across time and space’.

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