Block is pleased to announce IT IS AS IF, an exhibition of new work by Vong Phaophanit and Claire Oboussier that has been fully supported by The Wellcome Trust. The artist duo are best known for their architectural and site specific works that examine themes of dislocation, memory and identity. IT IS AS IF extends these concerns to explore the most intimate of all landscapes - the human body.
Throughout 2014 and 2015 Phaophanit and Oboussier have been working closely with Professor Roger Kneebone (Wellcome Engagement Fellow and Professor of Surgery at Imperial College London). Together they have been investigating the connections between art practice and the techniques and discourses of medical surgery. Kneebone’s interest is in how new robotic technologies are replacing the embodied knowledge of surgeons and surgical craft and part of his work involves the archiving of these dying skills before they are lost forever. His research also explores the unspoken languages of surgery as they are constructed and performed amongst the wider surgical team and how the importance of the surgical team has often been neglected in favour of a myth of the lone heroic surgeon.
Through IT IS AS IF Phaophanit and Oboussier enter the landscape of memory in search of unmapped territories. Held within the skeleton of a sinewy timber labyrinth, two films draw upon the artists’ own memoryscapes and guide us through the uncharted post-conflict zones of Laos, the eddies and flows of the Mekong, the Thames and the system of arteries that make up Europe’s ‘great’ rivers. As we navigate the installation, within a clearing we are met with an uncanny sequence of precise and tender gestures: the surgeon’s hands de-territorialised, the absent body. Cut flesh, opened, held, sutured – the operated and traumatised body reveals the strangeness of our innermost selves and the uncertainty of our futures.
IT IS AS IF explores embodied memory within a conceptual and phenomenological framework that invites the viewer to become lost within its network of passages and discover a new sense of place, time and meaning.
Phaophanit and Oboussier have exhibited previously at venues such as Tate Britain, MartinGropius-Bau, Berlin, National Gallery of Canada, Ottowa, IMMA, Dublin, Reina Sofia Museum, Madrid, the Shanghai Biennale, and the Void Gallery, Derry~Londonderry.