James Richards: Migratory Motor Complex

24 Feb 2018 – 26 May 2018

Event times

Tue / Wed / Sat / Sun 12-6pm
Thu / Fri 12-8pm
Closed Monday

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Wales, United Kingdom


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Commissioned for the Venice Biennale in 2017, James Richards’ exhibition returns to Wales at Chapter, Cardiff for its UK premiere.


Richards’ exhibition presents a suite of works including Migratory Motor Complex (2017), a six-channel electro-acoustic installation that explores the capacity of sound to render artificial spaces and locate sonic and melodic events within them. Woven throughout the piece are re-occurring vocal and musical motifs that have been developed in collaboration with Kirsten Evans and Samuel Williams, students from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. The work is tuned in situ, with Richards reacting to the acoustic contingencies of the space, creating a cinematic and multi-sensory experience — an arrangement of vivid emotional cues to be navigated subjectively.

Also featured is What weakens the flesh is the flesh itself (2017) a video made with collaborator Steve Reinke. The starting point for the work is a series of images found in the private archive of Albrecht Becker — a production designer, photographer and actor imprisoned by the Nazis for being homosexual. Amongst pictures of friends and photographs taken whilst serving in World War II is a collection of staged self-portraits that reveal an obsessive commitment to body modification, tattooing and his own image: duplicated, repeated and reworked with collage and darkroom revision. This extraordinary collection of images serves as the backbone for the video - an extended meditation on the archive, photography and the body.

As well as works from the exhibition in Venice, the presentation in Wales includes Not Blacking Out, Just Turning The Lights Off (2011). Commissioned by Chisenhale Gallery, London the piece taps in to seamless image streams proliferated by the mass media, as well as the recital of the poem Plainsong: from an older woman to a younger woman by the poet Judith Grahn, and material culled from the artist’s own archive of home movies, and examines the role of intimacy in relation to desire and physical proximity. Using images and sounds that are surrogates for the liquidity or porosity of the body, of being inside and outside, it slips between the sensual image and its abstraction.

Also in the exhibition is Mercy Mercy Mercy a film programme compiled and edited by the artist and featuring works by mostly British pioneers of video art. Parallel to working on his own films, Richards draws inspiration from collaborations with other artists, his interactions with contemporary art and recent art history, and from curating film programmes and exhibitions. His various activities as a curator have become an essential part of his work and research process.

Mercy Mercy Mercy brings together a selection of videos that deploy deliveries of text, of silence, of words and the various electronic and physical interruptions that occur in broadcast and performance as material. Within these works, communication itself is often disturbed by the process of embodiment or delivery and so a kind of concentrated tension pervades.

The programme contains the following : Chris Saunders (UK), Roy Dead, 1993; Stuart Marshall (UK), The Love Show (Part 1), 1979; Stuart Baker (UK), Mercy Mercy Mercy, 1988; Stuart Marshall (UK), Arcanum, 1976; Stephen Sutcliffe (UK), Come to the Edge, 2003, and Julia Heyward (USA), Shake Daddy Shake, 1976*.

Please Note: Migratory Motor Complex will be shown in the Seligman Stiwdio at Chapter between 24 February and 10 March only.

*All works in Mercy Mercy Mercy courtesy of the artists and Lux, London except Julia Heyward, Shake Daddy Shake, which is courtesy of the artist and Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI).

James Richards (born 1983) was brought up in Cardiff and lives and works in Berlin. He studied for Foundation at UWIC (now Cardiff Metropolitan University) and graduated from Chelsea School of Art in 2006.

Recent solo exhibitions include ‘Music for the gift’, Cymru yn Fenis Wales in Venice, 57thth La Biennale Di Venezia, Venice, Italy (2017); 'Abyss Film', Kestner Gesellschaft, Hanover; 'Requests and Antisongs', ICA London; 'Crumb Mahogany', Bergen Kunsthall and 'Radio at Night', Museum of Contemporary Art Bordeaux (all 2016); 'James Richards', Kunstverein Munchen (2015); 'Raking Light', Cabinet (2014), and 'Not Blacking Out Just Turning The Lights Off', Chisenhale London (2011).

Selected group exhibitions include 'Whitney Biennial 2017', Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2017); 'Less Than Zero', Walker Arts Center, Minneapolis (2016); 'British Art Show 8', touring exhibition, UK (2015-16); 'Saltwater: A Theory Of Thought Forms', 14th Istanbul Biennial, Istanbul, 'Walks', Andrew Kreps, New York, 'Safe', Home, Manchester (all 2015); 'Ars Viva Prize', Grazer Kunstverein, Graz, Bonner Kunstverein, Bonn and Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg (2014-15);  'Burning Down The House', 10th Gwangju Biennial, Gwangju, South Korea, 'Cut to Swipe', MoMA, New York, 'Looking Back: The Eighth White Columns Annual' (selected by Pati Hertling), White Columns, New York (all 2014); 'Meanwhile... Suddenly and Then', 12th Biennale de Lyon, Lyon, 'The Image Thought', Kamel Mennour Gallery, Paris, 'Otherwise Unexplained Fires', Malmö Konsthall, Malmö, 'The Encyclopaedic Palace', 55th International Art Exhibition La Biennale de Venezia, Venice (all 2013).

Richards was a recipient of a Paul Hamlyn Foundation Award (2015), The Jarman Award for Film and Video (2012) and was shortlisted for the 2014 Turner Prize.

James Richards is represented by Cabinet, London, Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi, Berlin and Rodeo, London.


The Cymru yn Fenis Wales in Venice exhibition tour has been made possible with Art Fund support.

The presentation of James Richards: Migratory Motor Complex in Wales is generously supported by The Colwinston Charitable Trust, the Henry Moore Foundation and The Block, London.

James Richards: Migratory Motor Complex is curated by Hannah Firth and managed by Chapter, Cardiff. Cymru yn Fenis Wales in Venice is commissioned by the Arts Council of Wales and Wales Arts International with support and collaboration from the Welsh Government and British Council.

Exhibition partners and supporters: G39; Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama; Contemporary Art Society of Wales; LUX, London; Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi, Berlin; Cabinet and Rodeo, London.




Hannah Firth

Exhibiting artists

James Richards

James Richards

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