March 26, 2023
‘A manner via the darkness’: the artwork present sublimating the horrors of previous half-century | Artwork

The Horror Present!, Somerset Home’s new exhibition telling the story of the previous 50 years via a ghoulish and disturbing artwork style, was initially conceived in 2019. Sadly, as its curators word, a real-life horror present then received in the way in which.

Again after Covid, and conveniently timed for Halloween, it opens this week, and invitations one apparent query: with a lot precise horror happening throughout us, why would anybody need to go to a London gallery to see extra?

“You actually open the paper and also you’ve received all of the horror you possibly can eat,” agrees the artist and film-maker Iain Forsyth, who co-curated the present together with his artistic collaborator Jane Pollard. As a style, nevertheless, “I feel [horror] offers you a manner via the darkness,” he says.

“It has at all times been one thing that folks flip to on the worst of instances, not the most effective of instances. And for lots of artists and creators, it offers you a approach to see via to the opposite facet.”

Like a scary film or a fairground trip, they argue, you possibly can expertise “thrills and spills and screams and tears” in a contained manner, “however you will get off once more on the finish”.

‘A manner via the darkness’: the artwork present sublimating the horrors of previous half-century | Artwork
A collage of the displays in The Horror Present! {Photograph}: © Barnbrook/Somerset Home

The exhibition focuses on the interval from the early Seventies to the current day, and opens with one artefact that Forsyth and Pollard recall as significantly terrifying: a Spitting Picture mannequin of Margaret Thatcher, on mortgage from the programme’s archive at Cambridge College and on show right here for the primary time.

“[Thatcher] forged an extremely darkish shadow over that entire decade, and I feel plenty of artwork in that decade responded to that,” says Claire Catterall, senior curator for Somerset Home. “Quite a lot of the work we’ve within the present is the form of direct response to her ethical and political philosophy.”

The puppet opens a bit of the present entitled “Monster”, alongside works by Leigh Bowery, Monster Chetwynd and Jake and Dinos Chapman.

Why this time interval? The twentieth century skilled loads of horrors earlier than the Seventies, in any case. Forsyth and Pollard, who each flip 50 through the exhibition, mentioned they conceived the exhibition very a lot to span their very own lifetimes.

David Shrigley’s I’m Dead features a stuffed cat holding a signpost which reads ‘I’m Dead’
David Shrigley’s I’m Lifeless. {Photograph}: (c) David Shrigley. Courtesy the artist, The David and Indrė Roberts Assortment and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London.

They hint a path from 80s angst and political riot in a time of the chilly warfare, via pre-millennial anxiousness within the 90s (in a bit entitled Ghost, that includes work from Derek Jarman to David Shrigley) to its remaining part and what they forged as a kind of “coven” of worldwide related Gen Z activists.

It closes with an audio set up by the digital composer Gazelle Twin, voiced by the actor Maxine Peake, in a bit that Catterall says she hopes folks will discover “therapeutic and uplifting”. “There may be an crucial inside that artwork to alter issues, to interrupt issues open. And to counsel methods of an alternate future.”

Forsyth agrees there generally is a form of imaginative optimism in scary instances: “The extra that energy constructions start to fail, the extra artists and others search for artistic options to them, and start to think about new methods, different methods.”

They have been significantly happy, mentioned Pollard, to have the ability to embrace a letter written in 1984 by Neil Kinnock, the then Labour chief, to Barry Hines, the author of the apocalyptic nuclear drama Threads.

“The final line of it – this delighted us yesterday – mentioned: ‘The hazard of complacency is far larger than any dangers of data.’”

The Horror Present! is at Somerset Home from 27 October till 19 February 2023

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