Over 30 artists working in video, performance, installation, painting, photography and printed works responded to an open call by Degrees of Freedom to explore the new currents that have shaped their lives.
Using strategies ranging from humour and playfulness to forensic attention to the body, the works examined states of minds, the new rituals for interaction, the heightened role of touch, and the dance of the body between danger and desire.
Performative works posed an organisational challenge as the event was being held in the middle of the pandemic, but a decison was made right at the start of the project to give them a central place in the exhibition.
Nat Li Lin Steinhouse’s movement pieces enabled people to experience connection without touching through simultaneous movement; Lidia Lidia undertook a many voiced performance with her collaborator Mr Slimbones; Tom Hackett and Julian Woodcock’s recited experiential anecdotes through a megaphone in the street in front of the gallery; contrastingly Roelof Bakker’s performance comprises quietly walking within the gallery reciting a text then exiting; Andrea Arnold explored disquiet used invented pyramidal dice to choreograph her movements; Christina Lovey’s joyful virtual collisions controlled the direction of her movements based on quantum theory and I Ching. Finally, Thirtyminutes, a three person collaboration presented an audio visual performance at the gallery.
Short video based works included the almost abstract “Factory” by Nenad Nedeljkov, the lyrical “suffocate series 2” by Freya Tewelde with an Eritrean folk soundtrack, Wu Cong’s exploration of confusion and mental disorder “Fancy a call later tonight?” and Jody Oberfelder playful “X and O” referencing the iconography of Zoom. There were also two longer videos, Terry Silvester’s “Fertile” with its fractured narrative and passages of extraordinary beauty and We are Willow’s documentation of the restrictive daily routines of 2 artists in seperate locations.
Physical works included the tentative and almost abstract sculptural forms by Roisin Kerslake Sim, Alicia Monedero and Sally de Courcy which were juxtaposed with Julia Maddison’s strange little sanctuaries dotted around the gallery, while Henryk Terpilowski’s life size figure is a celebration of all the introverts who have come into their own during self-isolation.
Marketa Senkyrik, Yvonne Feng, Fierce Fine Art made the body and its vulnerability the central theme of their works, while Ben Wilson explored states of mind through his auto portraits and Christine Warrington's work blazed a trail of red in the dark room.
Jenny Nash’s powerful b/w images of her isolated self were juxtaposed against Lidia Lidia’s exuberant and colourful photographic installation “The waiting room”; Lewis Andrews’ stark “Quarantined light” and Roelof Bakker’s sensitive monoprints on toilet paper focused on the Self while Lizzie Brown’s collage of photographs celebrated her local community who found new ways of bringing people together through street dances.
Marta Pieregonczuk’s installation explored tensions in intimate relationships during lockdown, Lisa Kreuziger’s yellow 2 metre rules ostentatiously marked out the galley space to define spatial relationships between people in the gallery and Tom Hackett’s installation was a playful reflection on the changed sterility of family shopping.
The exhibition took place between 9-19 September 2020 at the Espacio Gallery, 159 Bethnal Green Road, London E2 7DG. It was instigated and organised by Ahmed Farooqui for the Degrees of Freedom artist group. Many thanks to Jenny Nash for leading on social media for this exhibition and Andras Andor Jambor for photographing the exhibition. Promotional image by Lidia Lidia.