The exhibition premiers a major new three channel video installation Unearthing the Banker’s Bones from which the show takes its title. Unearthing the Banker’s Bones is one of eight works commissioned for the Arts Council Collection’s 70th Anniversary and has been developed in partnership with Bluecoat and Iniva (Institute of International Visual Arts).
In Unearthing the Banker’s Bones, Piper imagines the excavation and dissection of modern life as if we were decades into the future. This narrative device – looking back on the present from the eyes of our descendants – is used by science fiction writers to analyse contemporary events with the distance that history gives us. While weaving his own narrative of social and economic collapse, Piper draws on extracts of apocalyptic fiction by Octavia Butler and Mary Shelley, amongst other sources.
The three synchronised videos employ visual montage to play with ideas of real and imagined landscape and are accompanied by physical objects; items such as the ledgers belonging to the bankers of the title act as ‘physical evidence’ of their existence. These two elements - filmic and sculptural - play off one another, coming together to build a cohesive, unfolding narrative.
Unearthing the Banker’s Bones is a continuation of the social and political concerns that have informed Piper’s practice, from the very beginnings of his career as part of Britain’s BLK Art Group in the 1980s. The group fought to raise the profile of black artists through exhibitions and conferences, a contribution whose significance is only now being recognized in the development of 20th century British art.
Over the past 30 years Piper has used a variety of media, from painting, photography and installation to digital media, video and computer based interactivity. This exhibition will celebrate the long-term relationship between Piper and Bluecoat, which began three decades ago when he first exhibited here in 1985, as part of Black Skin Bluecoat, and again in 1992 with Trophies of Empire. The show will continue into 2017, marking the start of Bluecoat’s 300th anniversary year.