John Kippin: Based on a True Story, Works 1984 ̶ 2018
Exhibition: 29 June ̶ 23 September 2018
Based on a True Story surveys forty years of making art in public by John Kippin, a central figure in the emergence of photography as an independent art form in the UK from the 1970s and 1980s through to the present day. The exhibition, and the 344pp publication that accompany it, brings together contributions from nine leading scholars and curators in the field, including the Director of The Photographers' Gallery, Brett Rogers. Each of the nine contributors has selected works from Kippin's forty-year archive to provide new insights into his way of seeing the world through a lens.
Kippin's photographic artwork has contributed to debates about the nature of post-industrial landscapes, national and regional identity, forgotten spaces, and the power of the state and commerce to reshape the world. Since the 1980s, Kippin has created billboards for public spaces that intervene in the social realm directly - countering the messages of advertising with counter-cultural propositions, and questions.
Alongside well-known works including the seminal 'Nostalgia for the Future' we encounter works such as 'Hidden', revealing the power of the state in every aspect of our lives, and every corner of the world we thought we knew. 'Hidden' pictures a smashed-up jet fighter plane, grounded in the middle of the country, surrounded by rolling English hills and fields. It is as though a fighter plane from Iraq or Afghanistan had alarmingly tumbled out of the sky into a pastoral field in England: as though war had come home to haunt us. 'Hidden' reveals that which is hidden in plain sight: that the monopoly on violence held by the state underpins all of our lives. The graphic designer Peter Saville chose 'Hidden' to be the cover of Suede's album Sci-Fi Lullabies in recognition of its Englishness, its peculiar glamour, and its horror.
The exhibition includes 20 new monumental prints of work originally shot across four decades that reveal the state of the nation over the artist's lifetime. Across the panoramic range of subjects from tourism to cold war militarism, Kippin has consistently asked: what we have become? What can we see of ourselves, as a society, and what still remains hidden?
The project is accompanied by a major monograph about Kippin's entire career published by Kerber, Berlin, with the same title.
John Kippin's artwork is represented in three of the UK's national collections of contemporary art, having recently been acquired for the Arts Council Collection in 2018, and having works in the Victoria & Albert Museum and British Council Collection. John Kippin's career began in the early 1970s when he was a key figure in the co-operative of young artists who ran 2B Butler's Wharf at Tower Bridge. In this decade he was instrumental in presenting artists' film, performance, and installation projects in public and gaining recognition for new media in the visual arts. In the 1980s Kippin began to receive widespread recognition for his own photographic artwork, exhibiting in public venues from the Serpentine Gallery in 1981 to the Laing Art Gallery in 1989. In the 1990s he was awarded major one-person exhibitions at venues including The Photographers' Gallery, London and his work was acquired for the permanent collections of national institutions. He also exhibited across Europe, North America and Asia. In the 2000s he undertook research residencies at places from the military base Greenham Common to the stately home Compton Verney, and published a sequence of ground-breaking artist's books. Since then he also exhibited bodies of work at venues from BALTIC to the Imperial War Museum. Today he is Emeritus Professor in Photography at the University of Sunderland and is chair of the visual arts organisation Locus+.