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Words fail me is a newly commissioned project initiated by artist Adam Gallagher working in collaboration with a group of artists, writers and musicians, exploring how art is reckoned by language, and how its objects are spoken to or about. The project takes the form of a multi-authored exhibition and events programme, with collaborators invited to explore and reconfigure a sculptural landscape created as a frame for the project by Gallagher.
The project takes as its starting point a series of newly commissioned sculptural reclaimings of porcelain figures originally made by Royal Doulton, a British ceramics manufacturer established in 1815, specialising in tableware and collectables. The sculptures, produced by Gallagher in conversation with Curtly Thomas, directly reference the flambe glaze, a technical innovation introduced by the company in 1904 that incorporates copper, giving porcelain a deep lustre red colour.
The method was originally discovered during the Ming dynasty in China, probably during the 16th century, although high-fire reduction glazes have existed there for over one thousand years. Doulton used this method to produce a number of collections, including those depicting figures and characters from outside of Europe in a clear example of Orientalism. Words fail me re-purposes this moment in the history of a British company to develop a set of terms and concepts that begin a dialogue with the project’s collaborators – asking to what extent we are able to provoke these historical processes and representations, and resist and destroy their symbolic and artefactual presences which continue to define culture.
The sculptures function as foils and as prompts to allow for a generative, antagonistic and counteractive mode of exhibition making, with collaborators invited to preach to them, to hate them, and to convert them as they see fit. A newly produced sound piece by Thomas and Gallagher plays throughout the space, overwhelming the sculptures, testing them and the audiences identifications and approximations. Together they have worked directly against the archetypes that are the sculptures, subverting them by introducing the culture and ideology of the carnival, playing with how power is performed and recognised.
Installed works by Nikhil Vettukattil – including a text commission to be introduced midway through the exhibition – seek to reframe the viewer’s experience and perspective of the exhibition. Taken as a whole, the dialogue between collaborators seeks to present a conversation on how language can be instrumentalised and weaponised when applied to art – and through this how an art object can be seemingly outperformed, deformed and reformed. In doing so, each of the collaborators and responders seek to challenge the experience of the exhibition, manipulating language through visual, experiential, performative and written modes.
An events programme featuring performative and conversational contributions from Ruth Angel Edwards, Curtly Thomas and Adam Gallagher will accompany the exhibition with an aim to take a critical look at the value of coherence, asking how various competing, contradictory processes and materials succeed and fail to unite. Refusing the notion of an exhibition as a fixed moment, the project space aims to become a site for learning and for growth, for readings and misreadings, a testing ground to create new shared languages and registers.
Saturday 28th April, 6-9pm
Join us for the preview of Words fail me, during which Adam Gallagher will present Extrajudicial Killing, a narrative performance developed through his ongoing writing project ‘E.A.R.F.’ Gallagher and Thomas will present an interruption in the soundtrack they have made together, to punctuate the evening. The performance will take place at 8pm.
Saturday 26th May, 2pm
A conversation event led by Adam Gallagher discussing issues and topics raised through the exhibition, through which alternative readings and physical configurations for the exhibition will be proposed, discussed and enacted. Nikhil Vettukattil’s textual contribution will be read as part of the event and made available in the exhibition from this point onwards.
Sunday 24th June, 4pm
During the final hour of the exhibition Adam Gallagher, Ruth Angel Edwards and Curtly Thomas will present a choreographed audio visual performance during which the sculptures, now effigies, are re-cast in the events leading up to a funeral march, before which they are finally removed and destroyed.
Adam would like to thank James Bunton, Ben Clarke and Dannie Russo for their conversation and support before and during the show as well as their help with making the sculptures and paintings.
Words fails me is supported by Tower Hamlets Council and Sunshine International Arts.
Ruth Angel Edwards is a multimedia artist whose work explores the communication of ideology through pop culture, drawing from mainstream and subcultural youth movements both past and present. Recent exhibitions and projects include ‘! EFFLUENT PROFUNDAL ZONE !’, Bonnington Gallery, Nottingham (2018), ‘Enema Salvatore!’, Almanac, Turin (2017), ‘Light Deception / The Great Imitator’, Auto Italia South East, London (2017), a solo exhibition at Arcadia Missa, London (2016), ‘Info Pura’, The Residence Gallery, London (2016), ‘Derivatives and Futures’, Human Resources, Los Angeles (2016), and ‘A British Art Show’, MEYOHAS, New York (2015).
Adam Gallagher is an artist and writer from, and based in, London who works mainly through performance, challenging it’s reliance upon temporality and working against the performative-artist-ego. He self-publishes a series of pamphlets called ‘E.A.R.F’. The series transposes original fictionalised biographies that aim to dramatise instances in which disparate subjectivities appear, relate, contradict, and attempt to coexist, to form a picture of the fallout, failures and flatulence of global capitalism. Recent projects include: ‘War-Pig’, Local Project Space, (2017), and ’Polly Anything’, Lima Zulu (2017). Commissioned writing include ‘Special Category Status’ and ‘Trust’ for The Site for Contemporary Psychoanalysis as part of their Post-Psychoanalysis event programme (2018) and ‘Extra Judicial Killing’ and ‘What did I do to deserve this?’, Montez Press, Interjection Calendar (2017).
Curtly Thomas plays with the polarities that construct identity, visibility and culture. He often works in collaboration across fields, across mediums, moving through commercial and non-commercial spaces. Currently, he is using music performativity and texturally to create immersive, fantastic environments. He goes under the shifting moniker clubcouture.xxx, clubcouture, ‘clubcoutoure’ and Ceremonial Acts.
Nikhil Vettukattil is an artist and writer interested in the role of representation in framing and interpreting lived experience. Recent projects include ‘A Gift Given In Feudal Fashion’, Almanac Projects, London (2017), ‘Dream Works’, Lethaby Gallery, London (2016), and ’Cosmopolitan Universal Cinema’ at Close-Up Cinema, London and the Arnolfini, Bristol (2016). Recent published texts include ‘Green Space’ for Take Shape Magazine, New York (2017), and ‘Perception is Reading’ for Notes and Cashmere Radio, Berlin (2017). He has also presented academic papers ‘On the contradictions of Parliamentarism and Democracy’ at Historical Materialism, Beirut (2017) and ‘Image and History’ at the International Critical Theory Conference, Rome (2015).
Special thanks to Bianca Cedrone, Jazi Charbit, Esther Dillner, Cem Hamlacıbaşı, Ellie Higgins, Hannah Jose, Edwina Lowe, Matilda Liu, Tilly Shenstone, Georgina Rowlands, Carla Schöffel, Theola Sturridge, Patrycja Zarsaś.
Image credit: collectablescornerfigurinescollectables