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‘A Modest Proposal.’

Exhibition dates: 11 July - 13 September
Preveiw: Thursday 10 July, 6:00 - 8:00pm

 

'A Modest Proposal' brings together artists from  Glasgow, La Paz, Liverpool, London, Paris, Sheffield
and Tokyo,whowork in a modern-day manner of which the great writer Jonathan Swift might just have approved.

The exhibition takes its title from arguably the most famous satirical essay in the English language and begins with two of themost celebrated satirical graphic essays in British art.

William Hogarth's 1762 etching 'Credulity, Superstition
and Fanaticism: A Medley' presents us with an orgy
of ignorance, revealing irrationality and inequality
to be our guiding principles. The work was described
by Hogarth's contemporary Bishop William Warburton
as "a horrid composition of lewd obscenity and
blasphemous profaneness."

George Cruikshank's 'Bank Restriction Note' of 1819
shows Britannia gleefully eating her own children,
uncannily echoing Swift's proposal to improve the
condition of his fellowmen. The artist produced the work after seeing awomen hanged for passing a forged note: it was produced as a protest against the barbarism of 'acceptable' behaviour.

All of the artists marry social engagement with wit,
provocation and contradiction, in the satirical tradition.
Each is devoted to increasing the gaiety of nations,
as much as the reformation of our morals and manners.
Indeed, the artists work across a spectrum of media,
from planning public interventions, to drawings and
posters, to architectural and urban planning schemes
which imagine alternative futures. They tackle, as
Swift did, what it might mean to live a 'good' life. Some look at the contradictions inherent in the belief structures we inhabit or in assumptions that underpin
our national identities; others at the future of work
and of leisure; others at the systems of exchange which
bind us together.


 William Hogarth, 'Credulity, Superstition and Fanaticism: A Medley,'1762


George Cruikshank, 'Bank Restriction Note', 1819 (1894 reproduction), private collection

Claire Fontaine presents two projects: 'Queens', a double-headed coin, which can make us all gamblers; and the video 'Instructions for the Sharing of Private Property', providing us with a guide to begin an anarchist way of life.


Claire Fontaine
Top: 'Instructions for the sharing of private property', 2006, digital video, colour and sound, duration 45'23"
Bottom: 'Queens (1983-96)', 2004', double-headed one pound cion, two lathe cut and modified £1 coins
Courtesy of the artist, Air de Paris, and Galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris

The Klassnik Corporation is a design practice whose research projects imagine how we might embrace the future. Their proposals include remodelling cities to  open with global warming, and rebuilding historic
landmarks to compete with new developments.


Image: The Klassnik Corporation, from 'Future Heat', 2007

James Rigler presents 'Shed' - an oddly-sized garden shed 'improved' with a gothic spire - elevating the most suburban, English and parochial of structures into a temple for contemplation.

 James Rigler, 'Shed', 2007, wood, roofing felt, brass

Adam Latham's watercolours and series of posters replay, to disturbing effect, gender and racial stereotypes associated with Britain's colonial past and Victorian values.His works link texts and excerpts from images associated with different periods or incompatible sources, to examine the underbelly of our collective imagination.

 Adam Latham, 'Put It Out', 2007, ink on paper

Jens Strandberg's installation 'Shadows Out of Hell' intertwines fact and fiction, seemingly presenting a painting from one of Saddam Hussein's many palaces, alongside a photograph of the painting flanked by an American soldier in situ in Baghdad.
Jens Strandberg, detail of 'Shadows Out of Hell', 2007, installation
Includes reproduction of a painting by Rowena Morrill: www.rowenaart.com

Benrik Ltd present 800 proposals to "improve your life" from their books 'This Diary Will Change Your Life' which have sold ½m copies. They also present a "Doomsday Book" where individuals can sign up to a resistance movement, to be formed "in the  eventuality of a future totalitarian state".


Benrik Ltd, 'Send in your DNA to the authorities', from 'This Diary Will Change Your Life' , 2004-8

Paul Bloomfield's animation sees the flags of the world endlessly morphing into one another, echoing the poet Derek Walcott's phrase that there is "no nation now but the imagination".
Paul Bloomfield, designs for banners, 2008, paint on fabric
Commissioned for 'A Modest Proposal'
Kaoru Katayama investigates how different cultural practices translate in transit. Her video 'Hard Labour' reveals Salamancan builders downing tools to undertake early morning Japanese stretching exercises ordinarily broadcast to officeworkers.
Kaoru Katayama, still from 'Hard Labour', 2007, video
Courtesy gallery Casa Triangulo, Sao Paulo
Narda Fabiola Alvarado presents the video 'Olive Green', where she persuaded a whole squadron of La Paz's uniformed police to blockade the city's principal thoroughfare, for the duration it took them to eat an olive.
Narda Fabiola Alvarado, still from 'Green Olive', 2004, video
Andrew Cooke's 'A Guide to Maintaining Dignity in the Workplace' presents a series of proposals for reducing one's performance atwork, written in the style of awork induction pack, andwhich visitors are able to take away. 'Withhold Enthusiasm', one sheet commands.
Andrew Cooke, from 'A Guide to Maintaining Dignity in the Workplace', 2007, photocopies

Sean Hawkridge's projects are 'random acts of kindness' - acts of altruism taken to illogical extremes, where he presents strangers with unexpected gifts, testing their reactions.


Sean Hawkridge, from 'Makes Giving Easy', 2006-8, screen grab