Faye Spencer: Monstrous Body of Perpetual Research

5 Feb 2014 – 30 May 2014

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Harris Museum & Art Gallery

Preston, United Kingdom


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Faye Spencer's work uses film, drawing, writing, performance and installation, to produce a multidisciplinary body of research combining bizarre visions of hyper-reality and philosophical analysis. Interested in the construction and fabrication of culture and nature, her work starts from a point of misunderstanding, or non-understanding. Creating an unsettling conflation of fact and fiction through an exploitation of the ambiguities of language, she constructs hubristic grand narratives and meta-narratives. Her work uses a wide base of references, such as outmoded metaphysics, including the Parmenidean ‘fixed universe' theory; formal and informal logic; cognate folk culture, as seen in folk dance (eg Morris dancing) and masquerade, and outstanding classical scholarship, such as the Mnemosyne Atlas. The Mnemosyne Atlas was created by art historian, Aby Warburg from a collection of images using a non-hierarchical method of presenting cultural images together. Spencer's installation at the Harris Museum & Art Gallery pursues a similar sense of uncertainty in the relation between the works, allowing them to exist in a shifting landscape of associations. In the DVD series, Extracts From The Four Humours Documentary, Spencer references contemporary visual culture and the tropes of documentary film-making, taking on the persona of the public intellectual. She assumes the role of a maverick scholar, writing and publicly lecturing in multiple identities, self-consciously aware of the absurdity of the task to catalogue the entirety of human knowledge, affecting performative works with a melancholic humour. The video works have been developed around the life-story of the fictitious polymath scholar J.P. Foster, who is said to have created herself through logical reasoning alone, as well as her daughter, William-Foster Shuttle. A formulaic ‘journey', which begins in certainty, soon disintegrates into a struggle to find anything sensible to say at all in a haze of cultural noise. Lectures are plucked from thin air, as in Appendix: Found Lecture, lines of argument are lost in the noise, and, throughout the body of work, it never becomes clear whether J.P. Foster ever really existed. The watercolour paintings, depict the bestiary of grotesque creatures, form a series of deliberate misinterpretations of descriptions of ordinary objects. Spencer identifies objects with many components, (eg the ‘irons' and ‘flaps' of a saddle) that are read in isolation, as if she has no previous conception of what the object is in reality. She consequently constructs an entirely new image. The process itself is inherently flawed, given that Spencer can never authentically rid herself of the original senses of each word and its designated object. These objects, among them, a plough, a ship, a book, a shoe, are designed with a specific purpose in mind and are recognisable by their function. By misreading the various components of these objects, she has created quasi-organic beings that serve no clear purpose, examining the way we use and understand language and the arbitrary nature of words by making false attributions and feigned errors. Artist's Biography: The Monstrous Body of Research is Faye Spencer's first solo exhibition. She completed the BA Fine Art course at UCLAN with a first class honors and was one of the most promising graduates of 2013. Her work has been included in group exhibitions at Malgras/Naudet, Manchester and Hanover Gallery, UCLAN, Preston. She received the prestigious NADFAS Award 2013 for excellence in fine art.

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