News 1986

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Cambridge Darkroom & Kettle’s Yard

2 March – 6 April 1986

Belfast Zoo III, silver gelatin print, toner, oil pastel and torn paper, 25cms x 25cms, 1983 ©Victor Sloan

Around the time that we met to select the work for next :tomorrow I was bringing to a conclusion an extended rewrite of a paper on postmodernism in the visual arts that I had given earlier in 1985 at the ICA. What struck me most forcibly in thinking both about postmodernism and the work for the exhibition was how reluctant artists are today to imagine the future.

We fear the destructive and dehumanising power of technology, and have philosophers arguing that in the postmodern conditions the great Enlightenment narratives of progress have lost their legitimation. ‘Techno-science’ has taken on a momentum of its own, or so it seems, at the very moment when fashion and mass culture has become a hysterical re-cycling of the past (Punk has already been rejected as a past style in a recent issue of The Face – when we catch up with ourselves we will literally have to go ‘back to the future’!).

Shortly after finishing the essay on post-modernism I bought a microcomputer. Even after only a few days of wordprocessing, I realized that the microcomputer will bring about as great a revolution in consciousness as the invention of printing. I read recently in a computer magazine that in a few years every child (presumably in the technologically ‘advanced’ countries) will have a portable IBM AT (a powerful microprocessing computer) in their satchel. Data in a computer exists in a quite different way to print: it is fluid, infinitely transformable, dematerialized. In a way it feels closer to the thought in your head than writing or print, which is always identified also with an object ‘out there’. The computer, or perhaps more accurate the program, becomes a part of you, a mental prosthesis. Or is it that you become part of it? Culture is slow to react to new metaphors which are becoming available to define our identities as human beings. I look forward to seeing the next next: tomorrow, ten years on. In the meantime, this was my conclusion to ‘Revising Modernism, Representing Postmodernism’:

“Perhaps the central problem for Post Modernism in the visual arts is that, although we live in a culture of proliferating images, the future has no image. This is a result of both the loss of faith in the ideal of progress, and the changed nature of technology: the shell of the computer and its circuitry does not represent its data processing and communicational capacities. Jean – Francois Lyotard’s exhibition Les Immateriaux at the Centre Pompidou, combining a McLuhanesque tactility with Borges’ labyrinth, was an attempt to deal with this fact in a positive way which seemed similar in spirit to the exhibitions organized by the Independent Group ‘Man, Machine and Motion’ (1955) and ‘This is Tomorrow’ (1956) which saw in an era of technological optimism. The most difficult aspect of post-modernity to deal with is that which is unprecedented, even more so if it is unrepresentable. I would interpret the Sublime today not so much as an ‘anamnesis of modernism’, as concerned with the unrepresentability of technology and the ineffability of the multinational corporation which can no longer be identified either with individuals nor any more with its glass-box offices. Even science fiction has forgone technological futurism for a bricolage of the anticipated ruins of our present times. The obverse of the Sublime, according to Kant affirming Reason even in its very unrepresentability, in the unreason of the apocalypse. The unrepresentable and unimaginable have turned us around to face backwards, like the angel of history in Walter Benjamin’s well known ninth Thesis on the Philosophy of History which it is worth quoting once again, both as a prophetic anticipation of our post modern condition, and to remind ourselves what we have lost in abandoning the perspective of at least the possibility, however faint, of redemption. Interpreting, allegorically, a painting by Klee called Angelus Norvus, Benjamin writes,

This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned towards the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe, which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage, and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise: it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. This storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.”

Michael Newman

Curated by Michael Newman, Mike O’Pray, John Stezaker and Liz Wells.

Participating artists are: Tara Babel, Tony Benn, Helen Chadwick, Alexia Cross, Andrew Dawson & Graham Chester, Graham Evans, Karen Amy Finkel, Jean Frazer, Mike Gilchrist, Godbold & Wood, John Goto, Ron Haselden, Mona Hatoum, Andrew Heard, Charlie Holmes, Ed Horwick, Sharon Kivland, John Latham, Yve Lomax & SusanTrangmar, Jonathan Miles, Claudia Fasola Moore, Michael Peel, Victor Sloan, Simon Spain, Mary St James & Anne Wilson, Paddy Summerfield, Noel Taylor, Alan Welsford, Mark Wilcox, John Wilkins and Sarah Willis.

Castle Street, Cambridge CB3 0AQ - UK

telephone: +44 (0)1223 352124
fax: +44 (0)1223 324377


Critics’ Choice

Exposition D’Art Irlandaise Taispeántas Lorient

çaise, Dublin

22 July – 30 July 1986

© Victor Sloan

Critics Choice is an exhibition of contemporary art selected by the art critics of the morning newspapers in Belfast, Dublin and Cork, and RTE Radio 1, to represent Ireland at the annual Festival of the Celtic nations in Lorient, Brittany, in August.

The selectors are: Brian McAvera (Irish News), Theo Snoddy (Newsletter), Brian Fallon (Irish Times), Blaithin Ni Chiobhain (Irish Press), Dorothy Walker (Irish Independent), Hilary Pyle (Cork Examiner), Desmond MacAvock (Appraisal, RTE Radio 1).

The artists exhibiting are: Michael Beirne, Tom Bevan, Simon Cook, Maud Cotter, Michael Cullen, Paul Finnegan, Gerry Gleason, Patrick Graham, Patrick Hall, Eithne Jordan, Danny McCarthy, Ross Wilson, Una Walker,Victor Sloan, Vivienne Roche, Michael Mulcahy, Jim Manley, Brian Maguire, Colin McGookin and Liam Magee

Charles J Haughey T.D. will open Taispeántas Lorient 1986.

Alliance Française

1 Kildare Street, Dublin 2

Tel : (01) 676 17 32
Fax : (01) 676 40 77

Festival Interceltique de Lorient
8 rue Nayel
56 100 Lorient - France

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