Candida Powell-Williams:
Glissando

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3 – 19 October 2014

Bosse & Baum invite Candida Powell-Williams to present the sculptural performance work Glissando. This is part of an on-going investigation into our relationship to objects, theatre and the concept of the spectacle; as well as an ambition to often narrate phallocentric discourse, which the artist parodies.

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By using the medium of installation and performance, she is blurring the boundaries between theatre, art and what defines audience perception or interpretation. The process of research and development as well as the supporting events demonstrate the artist’s on-going investigation. For Art Licks Weekend, Powell-Williams will present her new installation and performance, based on a version organised in 2012 by the Salisbury Art Centre in a 14th century church.

“Candida Powell-Williams’ sculptures and performative pieces are stutteringly celebratory and imbued with a troubled playfulness. Deconstructing and interweaving disparate tales, she manufactures fantastic and uncanny installations to explore how objects relate to our notions of narrative, language, history and memory. Setting up stories through the creation of absurd scenarios, the artist’s work calls into question our subject/object engagement with the material world” (Antonia Shaw, Hayward Gallery)

Glissando addresses our ambition for freedom by weaving together narratives illustrating human’s historical desire to fly. Elimer an 11th century monk who made himself wings, Laika, the first animal in space in the 1950s, and Christina the Astonishing, a 13th century woman with apparent supernatural powers. The latter was a medieval visionary who, it is claimed, levitated to escape the stink of human sin. By retelling, and remaking Glissando, in different contexts and spaces, and with different audiences, Candida Powell-Williams exemplifies the effects of Chinese whispers. Each time ideas are repeated and the meaning is altered through reinterpretation.

Since the work-in-progress version, Powell-Williams has reimagined Christina as the inspiration for Wonder Woman. By recasting the medieval character, she investigates the idea behind historical female role models. Wonder Woman is the mythical embodiment of female empowerment and equality and inspired the new female version of Thor. Mixing pop culture’s supersaturated fictional visions with real technological attempts brings to the fore the artist’s engagement with our material desires in the digital age. Casting beyond the historical narrative, Powell-Williams explores the intersection between the personal and the collective experiences of our material world, confronting our sense of reality through absurd scenarios, which she stages through the performances taking place as part of Glissando.

Installation Views

Glissando by Antonia Shaw

Seeking chains of coincidences and patterns of recurrence, Candida Powell-Williams interrogates characters and events that have shaped our cultural history in order to investigate the mutable nature of subject and object (inter)relations, and how these impact on and are inflected by our reading and navigation of the world. Decidedly subjective and idiosyncratic in her selection of material, the artist manipulates her chosen narratives as though they were physical matter – puckishly plucking mythological, art historical and pop-culture references from disparate eras and folding these moments from the past into the present. Overlaying and interlacing the tales until they are reconfigured through amalgamation and regurgitation, Powell-Williams collapses them into one knotty, multi-layered narrative.

Glissando deconstructs the stories of four protagonists: Elimer, an eleventh century monk who made himself wings; the dog Laika, who was the first animal in space; Christina the Astonishing, a thirteenth century woman with supernatural powers and the loaded legend of Wonder Woman. The tales of these individuals are connected by their associations with belief systems, veracity and mankind’s innate desire to fly, yet this subject matter is almost a secondary concern for Powell-Williams. What is really at stake is an investigation into the consequences of retelling, repetition and reformulation, and Glissando is itself a self-serialising work, a re-staging of an earlier event which borrows elements from its first iteration in 2012 whilst assimilating new heroines and emblems.

Much like her strategy of manipulating narratives, Powell­-Williams gives form to the immaterial tales of Glissando through strategies of recurrence and layering, creating a visual cacophony where works seem to restlessly spawn new connections between each other, loop back in on themselves and exploit the mutability of objects and their narratives.  Abstracted emblematic sculptures and two-dimensional works are caricaturised through overabundance, scale and suped-up saccharine colour, and so trouble clear allegorical readings in favour of the carnivalesque. Propped up or prepared to tumble over, the placement of the works is precariously playful and highly choreographed, offering a confused set of coordinates for physical and conceptual navigation. Geometric shapes reverberate around the space and there is an air of action, exaggerated by the rough and ready, tactile surfaces of the sculptures, which emphasise their materiality and objecthood.

In this way Powell-Williams manufactures a complex, expansive and highly active viewing encounter where agency shifts between subjects and objects as true fictions are told. Yet, for all its performance and theatricality, it would be a mistake to perceive Glissando as a set of utopian (or dystopian) fantasies. Instead the installation places our fantastic lived reality centre-stage, exposing our absurd relationship with the myths and realities that make up our material world.

Performances

2 October, 6-9pm and 4 October 2014

Christina the Astonishing is appropriated as the idealised Wonder Woman and a female trickster. Her character is channelled through an opening night collaborative performance combining objects and movements.

Bosse & Baum