In the work of Giles Bailey and Jeremiah Day, language is a fundamental preoccupation. Words appear not just as images of signs but as a means to integrate poetics, narrative, description and exposition into visual art practice. Presented in juxtaposition and dialogue, the two complimentary but distinct practices will reflect upon each other and offer a glimpse into one of the important currents in contemporary art, namely the return of what was once unfashionable and taboo: narrative.
Giles Bailey works largely with performance, writing or strategically appropriating texts that he performs himself. These works are often conceived to propose alternative approaches to the assembling of histories and set archival footage, narrative video or particular images against experiments with language. Increasingly, he works closely with others to facilitate collaborations in order to explore these themes and is developing longer pieces of experimental writing. At CCA Bailey will present installed versions of two works shown previously as performances – I Bought a Little City and The Chemical History of a Candle.
I Bought a Little City was developed during a residency in Marfa, a remote town in West Texas. The work focuses on the sculptor Donald Judd, who relocated to Marfa and influenced the growth of the town into a significant cultural presence, home to multiple galleries and venues which caught the attention of the global art world. The title takes its name from the story by American writer Donald Barthelme (himself a Texan who happened to have moved to New York), published in the New Yorker in 1974. This short work of fiction can be seen as a wry, absurdist indictment of proprietorship and urban regeneration that feels strangely resonant in the context of the town. Bailey's response – a collage of short, quasi-fictions performed as monologues and collaboratively produced videos – proposes wayward negotiations of cities and failed attempts at producing artworks therein.
The Chemical History of a Candle is a performance which was created at Flat Time House. It takes as its starting point a brief moment in a video shot by Laure Prouvost of John Latham giving a tour through his home when he pauses by a bookcase and extracts a few books. Among these is Michael Faraday’s 1861 book of lectures for young people, The Chemical History of a Candle. Responding to Latham’s unorthodox and sculptural treatment of books, the contents page of this series of six lectures on the chemistry and physics of flames given at the Royal Institution serves as a choreographic score.
Jeremiah Day’s work employs photography, speech, and improvisational movement. In his performances and installations, questions of site and historical memory are explored through fractured narrative and image. In a personal and idiosyncratic form of realism, Day appropriates historical incident to serve as metaphor and exemplification. Works including If You Want Blood and The Fall of the Twelve Acres Museum will form part of the exhibition.
If You Want Blood is a long-term mixed-media research project, comprising performance, photography, sculpture, video and text, which looks at the post-wall history of Checkpoint Bornholmer Strasse. This site was made iconic in 1989 as the first checkpoint to be opened during the fall of the Berlin Wall. Since then, the site has been a common area for the artist’s neighbourhood filled with architectural ruins of the checkpoint and a used car dealership. In 2011, the construction of a Lidl store on the site began; Day’s attempt to work with the company and collaborate on a memorial commemorating the area's historical significance failed, leading to the shrine-like installation on display.
The Fall of the Twelve Acres Museum originated as an investigation into the legacy of a 1976 lawsuit over land in which a Native American tribe, the Wampanoag Indians, attempted to reclaim some of their traditional land. This installation project includes recordings of the Tribe’s Chief Earl Mills, or Flying Eagle who coincidentally was the artist’s mother’s high-school gym coach. The audio track reflects upon this story in the form of a letter to a long-lost friend, including an interview with the Chief on the nature of memory and narrative, and also music from a short-lived high school avante-rock band. The pictures – 6x6cm analogue transparencies – depict sites of natural and cultural significance shown to the artist by the Chief, as well as sites of historical significance from English Colonial history, and construction sites marking suburbanisation – landscapes with an entirely different kind of significance.
The exhibition opens on 14 November, with a preview on Friday 13 November where Day will perform a new work, with guitarist Bart de Kroon.
Accompanying events include a film programme selected by the artists, and a performance and publication launch by Giles Bailey. More details will be announced soon, please see cca-glasgow.com for more information.