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Video Art At Its Best: Johanna Billing at Modern Art Oxford

Swedish artist, Johanna Billing’s videos reflect routine, rehearsal and ritual with an emphasis on the fragility of individual performance and the power of collective experience. Billing was born in 1973 in Jönkoping, Sweden. She attended Konstfack in Stockholm where she has lived and worked since graduating in 1999. She became known for video works set in Stockholm such as Project for a Revolution (2000), Missing Out (2001) and You Don’t Love Me Yet performance events (2002 – 2010), which launched her international career.

In this, the second of a series of three new commissions organised by Modern Art Oxford, Camden Arts Centre, London and Arnolfini, Bristol, Johanna Billing presents a new film: I’m Lost Without Your Rhythm (2009). The film, which forms the centrepiece of the exhibition at Modern Art Oxford, is based around the recording of a live choreography event involving amateur Romanian dancers and acting students in Iasi, Romania during the Periferic 8 Biennial of Contemporary Art in October 2008. Led by Swedish choreographer Anna Vnuk with whom Billing last worked over a decade ago on one of her first films, there is no final performance as such. The resulting video weaves several days’ activity into a continuous process of live improvisation between choreographer, dancers and local musicians.

For Billing, the project was an attempt to explore, along with the participating individuals and the audience, what contemporary dance can be, or means today, especially in relation to a developing country and economy such as Romania. Consequently the work becomes about movement in general, choreography closer to everyday life than might first be imagined. She comments: “Often I think I am after a way of communicating – sometimes perhaps with oneself – that we have lost contact with.”

I’m Lost Without Your Rhythm will be shown at Modern Art Oxford alongside earlier video and installation works from over the last nine years including Missing Out (2001), Where she is at, (2001), Magical World, (2005), and Another Album, (2006). Recent major solo exhibitions include Taking Turns, Kemper Museum, Kansas City; This is How We Walk On The Moon, Malmö Konsthall, Malmö (both 2008); Forever Changes, Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Basel and Keep on Doing, Dundee Contemporary Arts, Dundee (both 2007). She has participated in survey shows such as Documenta 12, Kassel (2007); Singapore Biennale (2006), 9th Istanbul Biennial; 1st Moscow Biennale (both 2005) and 50th Venice Biennale (2003). Johanna also runs the record label Make it Happen with her brother Anders, publishing music and arranging live performances.

The exhibition marks the reopening of Modern Art Oxford following a substantial redesign of the Gallery’s entrance and public spaces. Showing concurrently with Johanna Billing’s exhibition is Maria Pask: Déjà vu 17 April – 6 June. Déjà vu was filmed on location in Rose Hill, a housing estate in East Oxford, Déjà vu is inspired by Rose Hill Roundabout, a community newsletter produced in Rose Hill from the 1950s to the 1960s. The film presents a series of mini-dramas, recalling past community events described in archived issues of Roundabout, and provides an insight into issues prevalent at the time, such as continuity of local life, community and togetherness.

There are a series of related events including: Johanna Billing and Maria Pask will be in conversation on Thursday 27 May, 7pm. £4/£3 and on Friday 28 May, 7pm-10pm local bands will perform their own renditions of the song You Don’t Love Me Yet as part of Billing’s ongoing project You Don’t Love Me Yet, (2002-2010). F

Free admission, booking essential. For further information visit www.modernartoxford.org.uk

All images (c) Johanna Billing

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