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Men Gather, in Speech...

22 January 2015 until 21 February 2015
Cooper Gallery, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, University of Dundee, 13 Perth Road, Dundee, DD1 4HT

Preview: Thursday 22 January, 5.30-7.30pm
In Conversation: Thursday 22 January, 4.30pm
Exhibition: 23 January – 21 February.

Cooper Gallery, DJCAD are pleased to present our January 2015 exhibition Men Gather, in Speech…, an exhibition of film and moving image art works by Emma Charles, Rose English and Abri de Swardt.

I talk to you; with those few words Politics appears.

Dialogue in its Classical sense, of which Plato is an exemplar, is a spoken exchange between embodied subjects. Although much critiqued during the 20th century, it is a mode of address that underpins Western philosophy and importantly politics. HannahArendt’s often quoted phrase “men gather in speech” lucidly defines the human necessity of dialogue and its role asthe quintessential medium of the political. But now in the 21st century the political efficacy of human speech is deeply troubled; overtaken by technological innovation and the emergence of ‘post-political’ thought, the inherent humanity of speech has become an enigma plagued by scepticism.

Bringing three film works by Emma Charles, Rose English and Abri de Swardtinto proximity, Men Gather, in Speech… is a choreographed space that re-enacts and doubts the troubled relationships between “power and the space of appearance” in our present age. Touching upon the theatrical, the fictional and the digital, the exhibitionoffers acomplexmediation upon speech, dialogue and the slow silencing of the political space that had once appeared between us.

Rose English is internationally recognised as one of the key artists working in performance since the 1970s. Her performance Plato’s Chairwas a captivating eighty-minute monologue in which English opened up key philosophical questions and submitted them to her incisive and illuminating intelligence. By turns dramatic and comedic but always startling in its use of dialogue, Plato’s Chair is one of the definitive performance works of the 1980’s. Recently included in the exhibition Keywords: Art, Culture and Society in 1980s Britain at Tate Liverpool (2014), this video documentation of the performance critically appropriates speech as a surprising and eloquent artistic medium.

Devised as an imagined conversation between Paul Thek, Derek Jarman and Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Abri de Swardt’s I’ll never wear sunglasses again approaches dialogue as a fictional and virtual medium. Conversing in an empty white void, the naked human forms in Swardt’s work are eerie symbols of the contemporary. Stripped of context, the voice and body in the cool virtual light of I’ll never wear sunglasses again become bare technical devices of history, uttering a dialogue that reprises the fragmentation of knowledge in a post-internet epoch.

Finding its title in Karl Marx’s monumental work Grundrisse, Emma Charles’ Fragments on Machinesunmasks the physical framework of the Internet. Omnipotently pervasive, the data centre sits at the heart of the global digital infrastructure. Codifying speech and the means of dialogue in the 21st Century, these highly elusive machines are cornered by Charles in their silent and splendid isolation behind the facades of skyscrapers in New York’s Financial District. In this cogent act of revealing, Fragments on Machines underscores the final disappearance of the ancient Greek Agora, that original ‘space of appearance’ in which dialogue and politics for the Western world first took root.

Each of us, according to Aristotle is “by nature a political animal”; the three works in the exhibition reiterate this ancient but still crucial observation. Whilst our capacity for speech is enhanced and accelerated by the technologies pervading the contemporary world, the possibility for our speech to be heard by others is paradoxically in danger of being lost. It is from this point that Men Gather, in Speech… sets in motion a dialogue questioning how we speak to others.

Opening hours: Mon-Fri, 10am-5pm, Sat 11am-5pm


website: Men Gather, in Speech