Aadieu Adieu Apa (Goodbye Goodbye Father): a solo exhibition by Olivia Plender24. Sep - 15. Nov 09 / ended Gasworks
AADIEU ADIEU APA (Goodbye Goodbye Father) is a new installation by Olivia Plender that delves into the history of mass public spectacle and its relationship to issues of sovereignty, by focusing in part, on the British Empire exhibition which took place in the west London suburb of Wembley in 1924. The exhibition also explores theatricality in politics in the present day and incorporates the artist's long standing interest in the theatre of the absurd, political satire and popular printing.
As an event, the British Empire exhibition aimed to educate the public about Britain's trading relationships with the countries that were part of its Empire, whilst displaying the apparent ‘benefits’ of Imperialism. Simultaneously, the event played a key role in promoting the emerging leisure and tourism industries, as well as the westward expansion of London which promised a new suburban lifestyle, branded as ‘Metro-land' living.
By considering the ritualistic and theatrical ways in which imperial power and the idea of ‘progress’ were exemplified in World's Fairs, AADIEU ADIEU APA (Goodbye Goodbye Father) makes parallels with the economic and social effects of the contemporary tourism industry and mega-events, such as the 2012 Olympics.
The installation comprises of three interlinked elements using satire and absurdism as its main mode of communication. The Empire City (2009) is a museum-like diorama which partially reconstructs the site at Wembley where the British Empire exhibition took place. Models of all the national pavilions from Canada and New Zealand, to Palestine are overlaid with fictive narratives and present day scenarios.
What is England? (2009), a video work incorporating contemporary footage of Wembley stadium and its surrounding residential areas, functions as a lecture on English history. Delivered by an elated Prince of Tourists, it muses over the language, customs, traditions, trade and industry of the English nation, before taking the viewer on a tour of the British Empire exhibition as re-imagined by the artist. The Prince of Tourists' speech is preceded by a short advertisement for “an absurdist play in which England and Iceland are at war”.
A series of five posters based on examples of popular printing through the ages, recall and satirise seemingly incongruous historical occurrences relating to the themes of nationalism, trade and consumption. Such narratives include the attack on the Rokeby Venus at the National Gallery made by the suffragette Mary Richardson in 1914, the appearance of a whale in the Thames estuary in 2006, and the recent use of anti-terrorist law by the British government to seize Icelandic bank assets.
The title of the exhibition derives from The Chairs (1952) by Eugène Ionesco, one of the foremost playwrights of the Theatre of the Absurd. In the play, the words AADIEU ADIEU APA form part of the final ‘message’ delivered by a deaf-mute orator to an assembled room of invisible representatives of society, including ‘The Emperor’. If the playwright has wished farewell to ultimate truth, symbolised by the paternalistic role of the Emperor, Olivia Plender comments on Britain’s Imperial past and the ways in which this legacy continues to affect us today.
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