We live in Modern Times. Taking its title from Charlie Chaplin's 1936 silent movie, Modern Times , curated by David Theobald presents a diverse response to what it is to live in contemporary society. Rarely has the struggle for survival of Chaplin's little tramp, a cog in a vast machine, seemed more apt and relevant. Chaplin's film highlights the act of trickery within the modernist project that substitutes an illusion of progress for an escalation in complexity. As the global economy lurches towards an uncertain future, these complex connections that form the basis of day-to-day existence seem ever more evident and ever more precarious.
How can art respond? Art is the ideal place for thinking about these issues. By reinterpreting ethics as a process of imagining and recognizing new possibilities rather than simply choosing from commoditized options, we can shift it to the heart of a political process of artistic production. This response brings together ethical and aesthetic concerns in a way that preserves a vital distinction between art and the products of the culture industry. With this invention of choice, thinking the world differently, privileged positions of judgment get swept away. Under these conditions, art becomes a sticking point ' the complex sensory/cognitive gristle that remains when all else has been rationalized away.
Modern Times brings together a group of artists that endorse such a conception of art, an unresting exploration of the alienation felt by Chaplin's tramp. Just as Chaplin veers between slapstick, black comedy, irony, pathos, tragedy and comedies of recognition and repetition, so do these artists, maintaining a subtle relationship to these ideas. All play with imagery and its corruption, producing a deflation of high culture's grand ambitions to create an expression of the everyday. Neil Hedger and Jeanine Woollard's shambolic sculptures transcend the poverty of their materials. Charlie Tweed creates alternative fictions that explore extreme solutions to contemporary anxieties. The work of David Theobald and David Ferrando Giraut explores the space between the still and the moving image, both how we experience and constitute time. Gorka Mohamed's tragi-comic paintings play with contemporary culture by marrying commercial imagery with traditional fine art traditions.
We live in Modern Times.
Through the constant transformation of assembled materials, in Woollard's work literary and mythical characters emerge to become part of an ongoing menagerie of narratives. Romance, tragedy, pastiche and ridicule are all dish of the day in a practise that borrows from art history and soap operas alike. Often betraying preordained functionality, objects are placed in elaborate collages to embellish and inform another-worldliness, always attempting to reach an epic monumentalism however untenable that may seem. Jeanine Woollard, born 1978 in Kent, lives and works in London. She graduated from Goldsmith College in 2007 and has exhibited throughout Europe, America and Asia in both Solo and Group exhibitions. Recent exhibitions include a solo show In The Chapel In The Moonlight, E-Raum Gallery, Cologne(2008); Analix Forever Galerie, Geneva (2007) and group shows Black Powder, White Party, Kyung Hee University Museum of Fine Art (Seoul, 2007), 42 x 60, www.42×60.com (Paris, 2008) and Bloomberg New Contemporaries (London, 2008).
In his work Charlie Tweed operates in the guise of fictional alter egos and anonymous communities - in these roles he play out alternative fictions from opposing angles that provide extreme and critical solutions to contemporary anxieties and their use as a tool in biopolitical control mechanisms. These works have been realised in the form of performative interventions utilising video, text and live performance. Recent exhibitions and commissions include: dragged down into lowercase at the Zentrum Paul Klee, Switzerland where he created a performative intervention as his alter ego the Man From Below and Start Point 2008 where he won the award of the Galerie Klatovy / Klenová for his video series Notes - which documented the intentions of various fictional groups to create new extreme forms of community and control over the environment. He will have a solo exhibition at the Galerie Klatovy / Klenová in 2009 and was selected for Bloomberg New Contemporaries in 2007 and Whitstable Biennale in 2008.
David Theobald is a video artist born in Worthing in 1965. Most recently, his films have been digital animations created from photographs, scanned images or single fames extracted from video footage, blending these together to create a familiar yet alien environment. Often, these are structured to create seamless loops with no discernible beginning or end. Recent exhibitions include: Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2008, which formed part of the recent Liverpool Biennial, the Cube Open 08, inclusion in both ArtSway Open 08 and ArtSway Open 07 and The Sleep of Reason at the Crawford Gallery, Cork. David's work is also included in Figuring Landscapes, a touring exhibition of film and video showing at major art venues throughout the UK and Australia over the next 18 months.
The work of Neil Hedger is influenced by the writing of George Bataille, who posits a feeling of human irrelevance as the starting point for human meaning, and thereby its need to elevate and deify itself. He relates this to the erection of the memorial object and by doing so suggests the use of this glorifying practice to celebrate the ignobility of humanity. Hedger's work extends this to the tradition of figurative sculpture as a whole, and looks for a contemporary vehicle for such a practice. Leaving a career as a sculptor in the film industry, Hedger studied Art Practice at Goldsmiths College, and was selected for the Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2008.
Gorka Mohamed's tragi-comic paintings play with contemporary culture; a quixotic attempt to marry commercial imagery with traditional fine art traditions. Recent exhibitions include: Planes Futuros which was curated by Morena and Maria del Corral (2007), the Celeste Art Prize and Beauty & Sadness curated by Monica Alvarez. His work is held in a number of collections including Museo Patio Herreriano, Museum of Spanish Contemporary Art and the Bank Caja Madrid.
David Ferrando Giraut
The work of David Ferrando Giraut deals with the influence of mass media on contemporary existence. Through a manipulation of the products of the entertainment industry, Giraut proposes alternative uses, narratives and fictions, creating a space for individual creativity and the generation of new subjectivities. Recent exhibitions include: Situación, at the Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea (CGAC), Spain; No Borders (Just N.E.W.S.), an exhibition organized by the International Association of Art Critics (AICA) showing the work of 29 young European artists in La Centrale Electrique, Brussels. He has also exhibited at the Thessaloniki Centre for Contemporary Art, Espacio Forja in Valencia and taken part in Pancevo Republic!, part of the XIII Pancevo Art Biennial, Serbia.