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Landmark exhibition the British Art Show 9 opens at Aberdeen Art Gallery

By David Porter

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Aberdeen Art Gallery will provide the inaugural location as it opens on Saturday, July 10 for the launch of the national tour for this ambitious exhibition of contemporary art, which takes place across the UK every five years.

Widely acknowledged as the most important recurrent exhibition of contemporary art produced in this country, the show will then tour to several venues in the cities of Wolverhampton, Manchester and Plymouth.

BAS9 is curated by Irene Aristizábal and Hammad Nasar who have made their artist selection for each city after travelling to more than 23 locations across the UK and meeting with over 230 practising artists.

British Art Show 9 was developed at a precarious moment in Britain’s history, which has brought politics of identity and nation, concerns of social, racial and environmental justice, and questions of agency to the centre of public consciousness.

The exhibition is structured around three main themes:

● Healing, Care and Reparative History

● Tactics for Togetherness

● Imagining New Futures

These themes were agreed prior to the Covid-19 pandemic and the global recognition of racial injustice sparked by the Black Lives Matter protests of summer 2020.

However, all three have become even more relevant in the present moment.

The exhibition is designed to change and adapt to each of its four host cities, presenting different combinations of artists and artworks that respond to their distinctive local contexts. The exhibition includes a film programme in each of the four host cities and online, expanding the selection of works on view.

In Aberdeen, the exhibition focuses on the effort to develop alternative systems for ethical cohabitation in the world.

The presentation centres on exploring different forms of knowledge – including spirituality – to heal the earth, to resist the injustices of extractivism, and to develop non-exploitative ways of living with the non-human.

Geomancer by Lawrence Lek
Geomancer by Lawrence Lek

Highlights of BAS9 Aberdeen include:

Maeve Brennan presenting a new iteration of The Goods (2018-ongoing); a series of films, photographs and billboards which take an in-depth look at the international traffic in looted cultural objects.

A new presentation of Cooking Sections’ ongoing research project, CLIMAVORE: On Tidal Zones (2015–ongoing) which encourages a flexible diet as its central premise. For this ongoing project, the artist duo collaborates with local people from two Scottish islands: Skye and Raasay to develop programmes to counteract the devastating effects of the salmon farming industry.

A newly commissioned film by Patrick Goddard 'Animal Antics' (2021) featuring a woman and her talking dog. In this absurdist commentary on the Anthropocene, the two species wander around a zoo encountering the forlorn caged inhabitants while reflecting on man’s relationship with the natural world. This video piece was commissioned in partnership with Film and Video Umbrella, Film London Artists’ Moving Image Network (FLAMIN) and Galerie für Gegenwartskunst, EWERK Freiburg. Shown with the film, Humans-Animals-Monsters (2020) is a sculptural installation which consists of 24 lead casts of the severed heads of animals, presented across the floor of the gallery. Produced by FLAMIN + Film Video Umbrella, with support from Hayward Gallery Touring for British Art Show 9 and E-Werk, Frieberg

A new participatory project by Grace Ndiritu entitled Plant Theatre For Plant People (2021), made possible by Arts Council England’s Project Grant for National Activities. This project aims to create a community of people who will learn from plants through bonding exercises, meditation classes and workshops, connecting with plant spirits, and exploring ecological activism. The project will culminate in and build up to a final processional performance piece the Plant Protest Performance which will see participants parade through the streets of Aberdeen.

New drawings by Hardeep Pandhal to be shown alongside his digital animations, knitted works, made in partnership with his mother and multimedia installations that make direct reference to his Sikh heritage and to the many types of racism that he has experienced throughout his life.

Two new works from Florence Peake, commissioned with Art Fund, a sculptural work and an accompanying performance both informed by Aberdeen’s landscape and the mining of its natural resources, as well as by the treatment of precarious workers in the care sector.

Recent Turner Prize co-recipient, Tai Shani presents a new instalment of her latest project, Neon Hieroglyph (2021). In this installation, fantastic objects – including a pair of floating glass eyes, a huge melting candle and Dracula’s disembodied hand – are accompanied by an otherworldly soundscape, composed by Maxwell Sterling.

The exhibition is accompanied by a publication published by Hayward Gallery Publishing which includes two wide-ranging curatorial essays, over 200 colour illustrations and original texts on all 47 artists.

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