In the run up to the 2015 General Election, History Is Now will look at the last 70 years of British history to offer a new way of thinking about how we got to where we are today, considering everything from the Cold War and post-Thatcherite society, feminism and protest movements, to ‘mad cow disease’ and celebrity culture. Seven UK based artists – John Akomfrah, Simon Fujiwara, Roger Hiorns, Hannah Starkey, Richard Wentworth, and Jane and Louise Wilson – will curate sections of the exhibition, looking at particular periods dating back to 1945.
History is Now: 7 Artists Take on Britain offers an inventive way of exploring the country’s recent history with the curators selecting over 250 objects from both public and private collections, as well as informal collections and objects such as photographs, newspapers, films, domestic items, and artefacts. Much of this cultural ephemera has never been exhibited in an art gallery, however this display will offer it new context, appearing alongside artworks by Keith Arnatt, Tony Cragg, Gilbert and George, Richard Hamilton, Barbara Hepworth, Damien Hirst, David Hockney, Ryan Gander, Henry Moore, Hayley Newman, Ben Nicholson, Martin Parr, Toby Patterson, Eduardo Paolozzi, Sam Taylor-Johnson, Penny Slinger and Christine Vogue.
The seven curators have been divided into sections first with John Akomfrah looking at the space between cinema and TV, documentary and educational film, avant-garde and experimental film, dance and performance art; while Simon Fujiwara looks at manifestations of optimism in late capitalism, post-Thatcherite society, celebrity culture, experience economy, architecture, technology, and well- being. There will also be Roger Hiorns’ history of Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) as well as bio-medical research, healthcare, agriculture, animal husbandry, and food production and consumption.
Hannah Starkey will consider ideas such as art as advertising, identity, gender, consumerism, rhetoric of the image, and the role of the individual in society; Richard Wentworth will consider the Post-War period, modernism, new consumerism and Pop, the domestic, the start of the Cold War, militarisation, industrial design, and cultural memory. Finally, Jane and Louise Wilson will study sites of change, contestation, and protest in Britain.
History is Now will bring together an unexpected collection of objects to shed new light on how we remember and reconsider our past, discovering new relationships and connections as well as revealing historical investigations, poetic mediations upon our history and provocative juxtapositions between art and object.
History is Now: 7 Artists Take On Britain, 10 February – 26 April 2015, Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London SE1 8XX. For more information visit www.southbankcentre.co.uk
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1. Stuart Brisley, 1=66,666, 1983. Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London © the artist