Parker’s Box is delighted to present an exhibition of new works by the Berlin-based British artist, Simon Faithfull.
Regular visitors to the gallery will remember the artist’s previous solo exhibition, Iceblink, presenting works produced during Faithfull’s participation in an expedition to the South Pole, as artist-in-residence of the British Antarctic Survey. Iceblink bore witness to the artist’s ongoing interest and preoccupation with geographical phenomena, and man’s relations with them. These are subjects of great seriousness, of course and while Simon Faithfull never takes them lightly, a degree of playfulness permeates his work, effectively allowing a port of entry to deal with deeper issues.
In Faithfull’s new exhibition Going Nowhere, the artist demonstrates his preoccupation with the notion that human hyperactivity is utterly futile in the bigger scheme of things. Ultimately, the planet, (and its inhabitants) are literally ‘going nowhere’ other than heading for certain destruction at a later date. In perhaps its simplest form, Simon Faithfull has spoken about the possibility of running in a circle close to one of the poles where it would be possible to run at the same speed as the earth’s rotation, in the opposite direction, effectively cancelling out the runner’s velocity. While this work, Standing Still, so far exists only as a documentation piece, it gives a clear indication of the artist’s focus and intent in his new work.
The central project presented in Going Nowhere, is Simon Faithfull’s new work, 0°00 Navigation, an ambitious undertaking in which the artist set out to walk, climb, wade and swim his way across the whole length of the United Kingdom, from the English Channel to the North Sea, keeping strictly to the Greenwich Meridian, the zero longitude point from which all international navigation is calculated.
The resulting black and white film and photographs document the artist’s progress as he crosses fields, roads and canals, passing over or through whatever obstacles present themselves be they natural or manmade including houses, factories, offices etc. The lone figure of the artist, seen always from behind as he heads ever northwards, presents the romantic image of an anonymous, slightly dandy individual, stubbornly carrying out the mission he has been given, in which he is at the mercy of the whims of geography – an insignificant being pitched against all the unknown traps and tricks of the planet’s zero meridian. Filming the project in black and white adds to a notion of clandestine operations, somehow conjuring shades of 007 engaged in discreet and bizarre operations (of the utmost importance)! Here, however, this romantic element of quintessential British eccentricity is complimented by other connotations that deal with more universal notions about the relation of mankind to the planet.
Of course, the very fact that the zero meridian passes through the United Kingdom, (via the Royal Observatory in Greenwich), is nothing more than an arbitrary human construct that has nothing to do with the physical constraints of the planet. Indeed, it was only accepted internationally a mere century and a quarter ago, and even then, not by everyone. With this in mind, Simon Faithfull’s project tends, more than anything, to highlight the futility of man’s derisory attempts to impose his rules on the planet. The artist’s feat of endurance, (albeit in reality over a prolonged period, accompanied by camera crew and support team), puts into stark perspective the pointlessness of human activity – ultimately no less “pointless” than art itself.
Another piece presented in the exhibition, and very much involved in the same focus, is Going Nowhere 2, in which the artist is filmed (again from behind) walking on the seabed. Wearing a white shirt, Faithfull’s Everyman figure is once more engaged in an apparently futile pursuit, with the added suggestion of impossibility, since no breathing apparatus etc. can be seen. The strangeness of the resulting images, this time shot in color through slightly murky water, reiterates the notion of the herculean efforts of man, being made to no avail. In this work, like 0°00 Navigation, there is also a suggestion of timelessness, already seen in previous works by the artist. The technique of using a looped video lends itself perfectly to this, and in this way the film also becomes an ambient art work, not necessarily to be watched as a narrative with a beginning and end, but as an ongoing journey, paralleled perhaps by the endless rotation of the planet.
Simon Faithfull was born in Ipsden, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom, in 1970, and currently lives and works in Berlin, Germany. He received his BA from the Central St. Martins School of Art in London and graduated with an MFA from Reading University.
After attracting recent attention at the Venice Biennale, and with solo shows at the British Film Institute, London, UK; Harris Museum, Preston, UK; Strasbourg Contemporary Art Center, Strasbourg, France; and Galerie Polaris, Paris, France, Simon Faithfull was at the center of huge controversy after Toshiba stole one of his ideas for an ad campaign. After unwittingly providing him with a huge amount of press, Toshiba finally paid him compensation. Both films can be viewed at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=efmL3W2dPjk
Simon Faithfull’s work has also recently been seen in group shows in the USA at Mills Gallery, Boston Center for the Arts; Goethe Institute, New York; Pratt Manhattan Gallery, New York; Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago; the Institute of Visual Arts, Milwaukee and Parker’s Box, Brooklyn (all 2010).