It’s been a week since the British Art Show 8 opened in three locations across the city and if you haven’t visited it yet, you are missing out.
Maybe you feel modern art isn’t your thing and that there’s no point going to an exhibition just to stare vacantly at an empty pipe. After all, if you wanted to feel like an idiot in a room full of people you could just go to lectures.
Still, no matter your level of engagement with modern art this exhibition is worth seeing. Rachel Maclean’s exploration of the theme, ‘The Internet has moved offline’ with her film ‘Feed Me’, explores the sexualisation of childhood and rise in infantile adult behaviour. Maclean combines pop culture and cannibalism with a vicious, anime-esque female protagonist and a villain/victim who looks like he belongs in ‘Lazy Town’. Looking into how the physical and digital worlds overlap one another, arguably this theme is best suited to the generation that spends its time slipping into the dark holes of the internet. The best preparation you can do for this is probably be scarred by something you’ve seen on YouTube. So settle down on bean bags to watch this sinister film, described perhaps counter instinctually by Film and Video Umbrella (FVU) Director Steven Bode as ‘Candy-coated’.
The travelling exhibition of British contemporary art is hosted every 5 years and features a wide range of art and artisits. This year Southampton has been selected as one of the 4 cities nationwide to host the British Art Show 8. The exhibition has already visited Edinburgh, Leeds and Norwich, and will finish its journey with a residency in Southampton for 3 months. Even if you think contemporary art may not be for you the pure range of art on display this year is a testament to the commissioners of the show. The exhibition will be housed in the John Hansard Gallery, the Southampton City Art Gallery and the Bargate monument.
Whether you enjoy sculpture, canvas, film or interactive art there is something for you. This year the collection explores 5 main themes: ‘The Internet has moved offline’, which takes a look at how the physical and digital worlds overlap one another; ‘From the Kitchen Floor to the Gallery’, which experiments with using unconventional objects in art; ‘Arts and Crafts’, in which the artists revisit and rework traditional crafting techniques; ‘Industry: A Real Work of Art’, which looks at industrial materials and modes of production and ‘Once Upon a Time’, which explores alternative modes of storytelling.
Other highlights of the exhibition include Jessica Warboy’s Sea Paintings, whose large scale art work was created on beaches around the location of each exhibition. Warboy allows the pigments of paint to be directed by the motion of the wind and waves, leading to the creation of soft, dynamic artworks on canvases several metres tall.
Alternatively if you are looking for a more interactive experience, perhaps you should visit Laure Prouvost’s installation, Hard Drive. Unsettling and intense, Prouvost explores ideas of spectatorship and objectification, by giving a voice to inanimate objects. This may sound hard to connect with, but being addressed seductively by an empty room is most definitely a memorable experience.
At the opening of the exhibition the Southampton Cabinet Member for Communities, Culture and Leisure council spoke of the importance of art in drawing together communities and the value it had in her own childhood. She said that she hoped the exhibition marked an important milestone in Southampton becoming the ‘cultural capital of the South’.