LONDON.- Art on the Underground
presents an ambitious city-wide commission by British artist Helen Cammock, which responds to the events that unfolded in 2020 and 2021. Launched 28 July 2021, and on view for a year, the commission is being exhibited in poster sites in seven Underground stations across London, including Aldgate East, Charing Cross, Earls Court, Holland Park, South Kensington, St Jamess Park and White City.
For the artists first major public commission, Cammock has created three new text-based artworks which reflect on our human response to the events that have unfolded over the past year: the effects of a global pandemic; the death of George Floyd and subsequent Black Lives Matter protests; the ecological challenges we continue to face; and the inequalities made evident through Covid-19. Her artworks consider the intersectionality of our lives and how our social and political identities are interconnected. Each work references the physical experience of travelling on the Tube, whilst also exploring our emotional response to a year like no other. With her characteristic economy of language, Cammock presents a provocation for a more compassionate future.
The first work in the series reads the edge is never still, which reflects on the idea of the edge; the feeling of being on edge and how our emotional edge is always a shifting site has changed over the past year. The work explores the notion of the edge as being something permeable and constantly evolving over time through our individual experience. It also references the architectural space of the edge of the platform and the edge of the train. We stand in the train on a solid floor and yet the site on which we stand is moving. These edges are doing a dance of transition as we move from one space to another. The second poster in the series reads, glass distortions dont impair my view merely change it, which plays on the idea of distortion as negative and how we transform to experience things anew. The artwork references seeing through a lens or the windows of the Tube and the idea of living on the inside and looking out.
The final artwork in the series reads sit alongside and feel me breathe and explores the symbolism of 'breath' within crisis, which has recently taken on an increased significance due to the respiratory nature of Covid-19 and the murder of George Floyd. It asks a question about the value and worth we see in (and feel for) others and explores peoples attitude towards the habitation of public space. The artwork explores the concept of empathy and peoples attitude towards public space. Covid-19 has dramatically altered our understanding of other peoples physical presence, however, the Tube is a public space which we inhabit together. Cammocks artwork metaphorically questions togetherness as a society can we sit alongside one another? The work questions how we can regain the fundamental principles of our social engagement with strangers as we begin to reinhabit shared spaces.
Over the past year, physical and digital public spaces have been filled with instructional messaging, advising on how to behave in the interest of public health. Helen Cammocks language, tone and the spacing of her words gives pause from this, bringing a human voice to reflect upon how we occupy our environment again. Her commission ruminates on resilience, transition, and collective experience, exploring how people can respond to the events of the last year by coming together and opening ourselves up to the experiences we share.
Helen Cammock, Artist, said: These three works are intended to be having a conversation about empathy and the way we navigate and see each other - both internally and in public space - structurally and emotionally. Sit alongside and feel me breathe is about the symbolism of 'breath' within crisis. The Tube is essentially a space where sitting 'alongside' is something we do, so whether two metres or right next to, masked or unmasked, the idea that we feel other people's presence is all the more important. The edge is never still speaks about the emotional edge - how it shifts and changes, ebbs and flows. But it is also about the idea of the edge being something permeable...that there is some seepage and therefore it is never solid. So its about transition and crossing borders of physical, emotional and social form. Glass distortions dont impair my view
is about the way we choose to see and interpret through our experiences.
Deputy Mayor for Culture and the Creative Industries, Justine Simons OBE, said: I am excited to see Helen Cammocks thought-provoking work across the network. The London Underground is the capitals largest art gallery and globally recognised as a leading voice in contemporary art commissioning. Art can entertain us, challenge us and invite us to contemplate and this collection of bold and honest reflections of the past years events will capture a spectrum of emotions and responses as passengers connect in their own unique way.
Eleanor Pinfield, Head of Art on the Underground, stated: Through this commission Helen Cammock offers a poetic meditation on the nature of space in the Tube, spaces that we experience through our eyes, the feel of our bodies, the exchange of our breath. Commissioned in late 2020, Cammock speaks to the current moment, a reflection on the upheaval and chaos of the past year. Seeing these posters across London, we are encouraged to contemplate our personal experiences of being with one another in shared public space.
Helen Cammock (b.1970) works across moving image, photography, writing, poetry, performance, printmaking and installation. She is interested in histories, authorship, storytelling and the excavation of unheard, excluded and buried voices. In her research-based practice, Cammock often maps her own writing, literature, poetry, philosophical and other found texts, onto social and political situations. She attempts to interrogate the ways stories are told, the hierarchy of histories and who is rendered invisible and therefore unacknowledged. Her work has been presented in solo and group exhibitions around the globe including Whitechapel Gallery, Maramotti Collection, Turner Contemporary Margate, Hamburg Kunsthalle and Kunsthaus Bregenz. Helen Cammock was the joint winner of the Turner Prize 2019 (together with Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Helen Cammock, Oscar Murillo and Tai Shani) and the winner of the 7th Max Mara Art Prize for Women. She lives and works in Brighton and London, and is represented by Kate MacGarry, London.