The new solo exhibition by Andy Holden at Block 336 was built in the four weeks leading up to the COVID-19 enforced lockdown in Britain and was never opened to the public. Instead, it remained sealed shut like a cartoon-tomb. Transformed for a new era of cautionary and tentative exhibition viewing, it finally opens on Thursday 17th September for six weeks. The exhibition itself has been reconceived as a behind the scenes tour that takes place on an absurd, melancholic funfair ride. A socially distanced “ghost train”, which guides you through Holden’s desolate post-cartoon landscape. From the desert, through the woods, past a sepulchre simulacrum, stopping in the mansion’s haunted library, and then finally passing through an uninhabited city. Each chapter has at the centre a short, animated film, and the entire installation is interrupted by a large 3D film that starts every ten minutes when the space is plunged into darkness, transporting the viewer through the outer reaches of the cosmos, which is populated by floating eyeballs. Dramatic lighting and an accompanying haunting soundtrack will set the tone for the reimagined gallery experience.
Visitors will book tickets to travel through the exhibition on individual motorised sculptural carts following a predetermined track. Once in the cart, the visitor must navigate the track alone, stopping off at each of the videos in the various sites, which are depicted in floor-to-ceiling paintings and sculptures. Each video explores a corner of “the post-cartoon landscape”, with an animated version of the artist walking through abandoned cartoon cells. The artist’s cartoon avatar is no longer able to access cartoon physics and remains grounded, wandering aimlessly. As much as gravity, melancholia seems to be responsible for restricting cartoon-motion in the solitary and desolate world.
In the foyer are a suite of 24 new paintings by the artist, and a film explaining the rules of the ride. The ride takes 40 minutes, with carts departing every 5 minutes. Tickets are booked for allocated slots, available on the hour. The ride is fully accessible for the disabled, either using one of the accessible customised carts or alternative modes of mobility.
Andy Holden, born and living in Bedford, UK, is an artist whose work spans sculpture, large installations, painting, pop music, performance, and multi-screen videos. Often starting with an examination of an anecdote or a personal encounter, these moments are then unpacked and expanded in an attempt to make sense of a larger philosophical idea.
More recently, through Laws of Motion in a Cartoon Landscape (2011-2017), Holden has been using the allegory of the cartoon as a way to comprehend our fragmented and illogical contemporary landscape. Specifically, how self awareness, a vital ingredient of the cartoon law, ‘Anybody suspended in space will remain in space until made aware of its situation’, helps us understand the world we inhabit.
Previous works have included collaborations with his father, ornithologist Peter Holden, examining our relationship with the natural world (Natural Selection, Artangel, 2017), a large knitted replica of a chunk of pyramid and a video of returning this piece of rock to the pyramid from which it was taken (Pyramid Piece, Tate, 2010), a seven-screen video installation which recreated his teenage manifesto which called for ‘Maximum Irony! Maximum Sincerity’ (Towards a Unified Theory of M!MS, Spike Island, 2013), and a library of books and sculptures dedicated to the notion of ‘Thingly Time’ (Kettles Yard, 2011). Holden performs regularly and releases records with his band The Grubby Mitts and runs the project space Ex-Baldessarre in Bedford. His work is included in the collection of Tate and Arts Council England and in 2017 was nominated for the Future Generations Art Prize in Kiev. His work will be included in the 2021 British Art Show.