Turning from an unthinkable scenario into a fast-approaching reality, individuals, groups, corporations, and even nations are facing historic change, uncertainty and upheaval. This exhibition attempts to address many of the issues caused by this unprecedented change by showcasing works that approach the subject in a principally metaphorical manner.
Indeed, across the social- and political spectrum and not least within the prominent European expat community, the exhibition’s title and its question have taken on an existential nature: Should I Stay or Should I Go? The exhibition does not comment on the political reality but rather attempts to reveal hidden layers and undercurrents that have led to the current state of affairs.
One overarching theme exposed in the exhibition is the realisation that our experience is growing from a desire to achieve equilibrium, to balance the action of opposing and contradicting forces. This central theme informs Johannes von Stumm’s (b. 1959, Germany) sculptural oeuvre in particular, but equally resonates with the work of many artists in this exhibition. Another recurring theme is identity, not as a single entity with clearly defined boundaries, but rather as a continuing response to external forces arising from a multitude of often conflicting issues, is beautifully manifested in James Scott Brooks’ (b. 1974, UK) Birthplace series.
In total, the exhibition brings together fifteen artists from diverse backgrounds, who work in a wide range of media. The most literal approach to the subject must be Michał Iwanowski’s (b. 1977, Poland) project Go Home, Polish - derived from a sentence the artist took literally and turned into an art-work as he gathered experiences and images on his journey, walking from Bristol to his native Poland. David Connearn’s (b. 1952, UK) work Calais Flags or Danica Phelps’ (b. 1971, USA) Gratitude Project were both triggered by images of the refugee crisis, to which both found unique responses. Sophie Bouvier Ausländer (b. 1970, Switzerland) and Eric Cruikshank (b. 1975, UK) take maps and places as their point of departure, retracing the terrain by reworking geographical images. Stefana McClure (b. 1959, Northern Ireland) and Mike Meiré (b. 1964, Germany) both took print media as their starting-point, violating or erasing its very content and in turn commenting on the current socio-political landscape.
Presumably, the most poignant work in the exhibition, Susan Stockwell’s (b. 1962, UK) Jerusalem-Br-Exit visualises a feeling of frustration and deflation; presenting a UK map coming loose at its Southern border, that faces the European Union.
Should I Stay or Should I Go? is the first collaborative exhibition project between Bartha Contemporary and Patrick Heide Contemporary Art, whose respective programs and exhibitions are rarely politically motivated, yet both felt that the current debate cannot be left uncommented, even if in a rather abstracted manner.