Gemma Howell – A Hand to Play THE HAND BUILT HER A BIKE BEFORE SHE COULD RIDE IT. SHE TOOK IT TO PEDDLE IT TO THE CORNERS OF HIS GRAINY WORLD. THE HAND OPENED HER UP TO BOYS. SHE BREATHED FIRES. CONQUERED TREES. ROUGH ‘N’ TUMBLED WITH TOMBSTONING TOM. DICK & HARRY. THE HAND STUFFED HER WITH FIBREGLASS THEN STITCHED HER WITH THREAD SO. SHE DAREN’T TREAD. BEYOND HUNGER OF HIS BED. UNTIL. TEEN-BLED. NO SCRIPT. UNWED. SHE ENDED UP WITH A BABY GIN-DEAD. WITH THE HAND’S FINAL WORD. SHE RODE ACROSS BORDERS WITHOUT TRACKS. TO THE WINDOW OF EYES. TO BE A FASHION SKETCH. OF MARY QUANT SIZE. THE HAND OF RULE CAGED HER. PARADED AND STAGED HER FOR THE SCALPS. AND SUITS SLAPPED HER GEM-WAX BUTTOCKS. SMOOTHED HER POLISHED THIGHS: A MANNEQUIN. A PLAYTHING FOR SNOLLYGOSTERS IN LOOSE NECKTIES. THE FATEFUL DIP IN A SKINNY POOL. NUDE. BENEATH A LECHEROUS MOON. SHE WAS HANDED TO THE STIFF WITH AN UPPER-CRUST LIP. WAS IT KISMET? WAS IT JUST A BLIP? AFTER HER POSTCOITAL CIGARETTE. SLITHERS OF GLASS PUSHED FROM WITHIN: GREW FROM HER CHEEK. FROM HER LIDS. FROM HER TITS. TO SCORE THE CREASE OF HIS PILLOWED PECK. COLD BLOOD CAST A SHADOW OF WAR BETWEEN THEM. SHE INVENTED SEX IN THE SIXTIES WHERE THE ODD SQUEEZE. TRANSLATED TO SLEAZE. NEWS-HACKS PICKED AT THE LAUDED TITLES’ BRICKED WOUNDS: WHERE LANDED RANKS OF PEEVISH PRUDES WERE TOPPLED BY A TINY TEENAGE TERMAGANT FROM THE WRONG SIDE OF THE DIVIDE.
Darren Cullen – If you like football. A2 Print An image from Cullen’s absurd and potentially offensive self published comic (Don’t) Join the Army (2013), highlighting the false promises of life (and death) within a military recruitment leaflet. Folded like a concertina leaflet, the outside features a 1.48 metre Bayeux tapestry style recreation of the Iraq war. When I first saw ‘Join The Army’ I was impressed by how it managed to capture the dark humour of the soldier, the irrational nature of military life and the futility of war. I thought the artist must be a veteran.”
Ben Griffin, ex-SAS & Paratrooper. Coordinator Veterans for Peace UK. “A brutal piece of satire from an artist whose work is subtle as a brick, but undeniably effective” 4/5 – The Skinny
Anja Stenina, The Mule – The Harmed Knower, sculpture, 2023 The character of the Mule haunts and guides Stenina’s practice-based research informed by critical social epistemology, the study of social dimensions, dynamics and structures of knowledge. The Mule embodies the harmed knower, his pain is epistemic and therefore cannot be located or articulated easily: His cry is visceral and disturbing: The Mule is a beast of epistemic burden. The Mule has been created to forgo epistemic labour so others would not. The Mule cannot procreate, his narrative is fixed beneath the metanarrative. If he does procreate, it is considered a bad omen. The mule is an aporetic (impracticable, impossible) character – an animal belonging to neither the identity of horse nor donkey. It expresses the difficulty of expression; embodiment of humility; unworldliness; limitation; struggle.
Anja Stenina, The Battle Between Myth and Lived Experience, Film, 2023
Claire Francis – Forcing the Hand, 2023 In Forcing the Hand, conceptual artist Claire Francis delves deep into the intricate realms of consent, damage, trauma, and the ethical dimensions surrounding human touch, gaze, admiration, and exploitation. Through this thought-provoking performance artwork, she invites viewers to contemplate how we as individuals safeguard ourselves from external influences, maintaining a sense of self within our physical forms. In this transformative piece, the artist utilises a wet malleable ceramic pot as a symbolic representation of the self. By allowing others to manipulate her hands and re-mold the clay, she creates a powerful metaphor for the impact of external forces on our personal boundaries and emotional landscapes. Forcing the Hand encourages audiences to reflect on the complex dynamics of power and vulnerability inherent in human relationships. It poses essential questions about the limits of consent and the consequences of yielding control over one’s own vessel. Through this exploration of emotional microdamage and unconventional modes of communication, Francis challenges viewers to consider their own agency and resilience within the context of a society constantly testing the limits of individual autonomy.
Post-it Notes project by Rakumancy Artist Triad, 2023 In this project, three artists Anja Stenina, Claire Francis and Esther Ley bring together social commentary and sculpture. Esther Ley’s many years of expertise in ceramics allowed this critical and, at the same time, playful creative endeavour to take shape. The artist triad has collected people’s testimonies of the uncomfortable commentary, feedback and statements regarding the art profession, art practice, and art in general. Whether it be unsolicited advice, harsh criticism, or societal assumptions about art, these words and experiences are often hidden from the public eye. To reveal the unspoken narratives and social assumptions that exist behind the scenes of the art world, individuals were encouraged to share their experiences anonymously. The artist triad took great care in transferring the shared testimonials onto these clay Post-it notes, ensuring that the original handwriting and expressions of the contributors were preserved. This attention to detail adds a layer of authenticity to the project, as each ceramic Post-it note becomes a unique representation of the voices within the art community.The resulting collection of ceramic Post-it notes serves as a mirror, reflecting back to the public the often-uncomfortable truths and societal judgments that artists face regularly.
Anja Stenina, Mundane Protest, sculpture, 2023 The sculpture in the shape of a speech bubble on the broomstick is designed for dynamic social commentary and socially engaged practice. The surface of the speech bubble works as a whiteboard and text can be easily erased and replaced. The sculpture is dynamic, in the sense that it can change during the exhibition if the author finds a better “phrase of the day”. The phrases on the clouds attempt to capture mundane mythologies, the manifestations of the everyday unknowing that we encounter in our daily lives. The texts are expressions of the experientially uncomfortable and typical speech situations, indignities and communicative obstacles we encounter on our mundane journeys.
Claire Francis, Documents from Forcing the Hand project
Alina Skorohoda, Mental Load, film, 2018 In “Mental Load 2019,” the artist herself takes on a central role as she carries a washing machine on her back across diverse landscapes. As Alina Skorohoda traverses various landscapes with the weight of the washing machine on her shoulders, viewers are confronted with a vivid representation of the relentless nature of the mental load. The landscapes themselves may symbolize the different contexts and challenges women face as they navigate their roles in society. Skorohoda’s art invites contemplation not only on the physical act of carrying this heavy load, but also on the psychological and emotional toll it exacts. Her work resonates deeply with those who have experienced the weight of societal expectations and responsibilities, shedding light on the complex and often exhausting nature of these roles.
Esther Ley, Home is Not a House, sculpture, 2023 Esther Ley’s artwork, titled “Home is not a House,” delves deep into the multifaceted concept of home, which transcends the mere physical structure of a house or the shelter it provides. Her art practice is profoundly socially engaged, demonstrating a remarkable commitment to expanding the social imaginary and amplifying the voices of those who are often not heard. She engages directly with individuals, inviting them to share their thoughts and emotions on the theme of “what home means to you.” This participatory aspect of her work is not merely a passive data collection exercise but a profound act of speaking with, rather than for, the stakeholders involved. For this particular creative journey Esther’s work takes the form of carefully crafted ceramic pie charts and heartwarming miniature houses. As you stand before her ceramic houses and pie charts, you’re drawn in by the delicate craftsmanship and the beauty of the intricate details. Her ceramic houses and pie charts serve as a poignant social commentary in sculptural form. Esther Ley’s “Home is not a House” artwork is a profound exploration of home as a concept, an experience, and a space. Her artwork invites viewers to engage on multiple levels, seamlessly combining aesthetic pleasure with sentimentality and critical thinking. Her pieces are not just visually appealing; they are emotionally resonant and intellectually stimulating