Scaramouche presents Of many, one, a group exhibition featuring:
Johann Arens Chad Burt Hans Diernberger Chas Higginbottom Daniel Lichtman Laura Morrison Isaac Muñoz Rehana Zaman
Curated by Erin Sickler
Bringing together a group of eight young London-based artists, the exhibition “Of many, one” takes its cue from Italo Calvino’s novel “If on a winter’s night, a traveler,” a book where the first chapter begins with an invitation: “You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino’s new novel, If on a winter’s night a traveler. Relax. Concentrate. Dispel every other thought. Let the world around you fade…”
After this initial plea, the second chapter enters into a story – in a train station, on a dark night, where a man tarries back and forth between a bar and a phone booth. As the climax nears, the story ends; the narrator from the first chapter inserts himself again, informing you that this novel, if on a winter’s night, a traveler, is the victim of a printing mishap. The book that contains it has only one section of text, which repeats over and over again. As the plot line moves forward, each successive story – a rich, detailed, convincing world – results in a dead end, while the interruptions in between, the search for a complete narrative, become the main thrust of the novel.
Upheld by a similar structure, “Of many, one” brings forth a series of broken narratives. Wry, sometimes saturnine, and often outright humorous, the works function as abridged versions of a larger practice or inquiry: distinct, yet in tandem. Assembled from incomplete accounts, Of many, one enacts a cumulative gesture: a series of isolated excerpts unfolding into a larger story.
Thrusting unexpected rhythms into the traditional mise en scène, Johann Arens’s (b. 1981, Aachen, Germany) videos draw on techniques from 60’s and 70’s structuralist video pioneers Stan Brakhage and Kenneth Anger and post-90’s fantasy filmmakers Michel Gondry and Charlie Kaufman. Equally attentive to structural devices, Rehana Zaman (b. 1982, Heckmondwike, UK) creates performances, videos and works on paper that locate positions of political agency within narrative frameworks. For the opening Of many, one she will introduce a new installation in which a live performer comments on the action of a 3-part video, as in the manner of a Greek Chorus. Influenced by a background in Hollywood set design, Chas Higginbottom (b. 1966, Los Angeles) highlights the artifice in the conceptual practice of the readymade, amassing incongruent elements that riff off of canonical artworks. Developing a language based around character development, Chad Burt’s (b. 1978, Halifax, Canada) paintings feature different iterations of the same super archetype: the solitary male figure, a lone seeker adrift in a psychedelic Northern wasteland. Expanding from the particular to the universal, these four artists isolate an essential element of fiction (character, plot, setting, genre and motif) and make it available to a larger field of inquiry and analysis.
Rather than moving from the particular to the universal, other works in the exhibition function more through evocation than definition. For Kampfbereit, or “combat ready”, Hans Diernberger’s (b. 1983, Munich) series of collages depict battleships infinitely poised on the horizon, their intentions unclear. Equally ambiguous, Daniel Lichtman’s (b. 1982, Philadelphia) installation engages with the same fascination with future technology that prompted Jean Tinguely’s metamechanics and Oskar Schlemmer’s utopic visions. Rather than complicating concepts of the future, Laura Morrison’s (b. 1981, London) wet clay sculptures look backwards to engage in primordial fictions. Connecting the body and earth as many female artists have done before her, she inhabits the line between complicit and critical.
Isaac Muñoz (b. 1982, Puebla, Mexico), a prolific maker of situations, happenings, and events, ties the exhibition space together by making it his subject, creating a meta-narrative that situates the relationships between the other works.
This exhibition was generously supported in part by the Goldsmiths Annual Fund