Exhibitions Archive

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  • Alastair MacKinven ‘Performances 2006 to 2009’
    Alastair MacKinven ‘Performances 2006 to 2009’
  • Alastair MacKinven ‘Performances 2006 to 2009’
    Alastair MacKinven ‘Performances 2006 to 2009’
  • Alastair MacKinven ‘Performances 2006 to 2009’
    Alastair MacKinven ‘Performances 2006 to 2009’
  • Alastair MacKinven
    ‘Performances 2006 to 2009’
  • 15 March to 14 April 2009
  • Alastair MacKinven All the things you could be by now if Robert Smithson’s wife was your mother
  • Black and white photograph on fibre paper, 2007

This exhibition by Alastair MacKinven will be the first presentation of the artist’s recent performance-based works. Developed over a three-year period, these actions have become an integral part of MacKinven’s visual research, which has previously focused on a critical engagement with painting as well as a number of other diverse projects. Through his performances, the artist is concerned with an investigation into the documentation of original events, by way of his staging of evidence through photography, moving image, narrative and storytelling. MacKinven — who is also known for his installations, musical activity, and as a member of the irreverent and provocative London-based collective Nang Gallery — has been using the medium of performance for only a short time, yet it has proved to be an important and direct testing ground for the artists’ challenging ideas.

A series of five films will be shown in total within the gallery space, situated on the second floor of Southend Central Library. One of these works will come in the form of a DVD slide projection onto canvas,

while photographic and textual documentation of each of the other performances, all of which have taken place between 2006 and 2009, will be presented in the space. A special action, which relates to the history and culture of Southend is also planned just prior to the opening of the exhibition. After this has taken place, the resulting documentation of the event will also be shown at Focal Point Gallery.

It has previously been said that MacKinven’s work satirises the value systems of the art world, whilst wryly deflecting to a more corporeal practice of involuntary evaluation; that he has an obsession with the body’s limits, its idiosyncrasies and various behaviours. In his 8mm film All the things you could be by now if Robert Smithson’s wife was your mother (2007) he transferred a pile of dirt from one area of a lawn to another. Remaking the 1979 work Star Crossed by Nancy Holt (who was Robert Smithson’s wife) MacKinven embedded a large pipe into the earth, undressed, then passed naked through it, wrapping himself in a silver blanket like a newborn child on the other side.

Referring to conception, birth and transformation, the artist’s bare body becomes a base from which MacKinven questions art’s myths and in particular its associations with the transformative.

Similarly, for a recent performance at the Camden Arts Centre, MacKinven glued his hand to the floor of the central upstairs atrium gallery space. He then sat waiting to see how long it would take until anyone, including the gallery staff, offered him help; brought him a glass of water, for example, asked if he would like a toilet break or tried to unglue him from the floor. Issues such as institutional care, trust, vulnerability, violation and shame, are all relevant to his practice, as they are to many canonical works of art and performance of the 1970s, which MacKinven often references.

In a third action MacKinven visited the Royal Observatory in Greenwich on the evening of Friday 11 July 2008 and deflected the laser that is constantly projected at zero degrees longitude along the path of the Prime Meridian — the international timeline — with a mirror attached to a long bamboo

pole, thus disrupting the ‘centre’ of time on the planet. MacKinven’s action at this site was documented and the resulting footage shown in the ICA Upper Galleries for the following weekend. The incongruous prop used at Greenwich was wedged into the same space, referring as much to Charlie Chaplin’s precarious walking cane, as to Robert Smithson’s form of mirror displacement. Interestingly, if MacKinven’s work references art-historical canons and the now thoroughly accepted forms of discourse such as Land Art, he does this in a manner that aims to upset an academic reading of other moments in Conceptual Art and Performance Art’s history, through a critique of stylistic language and the subsequent re-appropriation of historical practices that is prevalent in contemporary production and the re-enactment boom.

A publication will accompany the exhibition on MacKinven’s work, and attempt, through its natural, academic, and faux scientific veneer, to enact its own critique of historical oeuvre within the discourse surrounding the culture of contemporary performance. Copies

of the publication will be sent out to members of the gallery’s mailing list during the exhibition; in line with the aesthetic, critical and historical concerns of the artist, this book will not only become a document of MacKinven’s practice, but an essential and integral part of the narrative behind his work and therefore a work in its own right. Through its distribution, it will use and comment on the history of the self-promotion and the ‘politics of publicity’ inherent within the history of Conceptual Art, which is still prevalent on every level within contemporary art practice. In essence if, within the history of performance art, individual works have traditionally been presented as a mechanical sequence of events — from the site and time of an original action, to its documentation, publication, critical evaluation and, as sometimes happens with seminal works, its subsequent re-enactment and re-appraisal — then this problematic chronology serves to canonise a performance within the field of historical discourse.

In this exhibition then, MacKinven will attempt to

skew and disrupt the logical progression of performance and time through combining his off-site performances and performative installations. If the artist aims to present alternative readings of ‘original’ events, the exhibition and publication will revaluate the history of Land Art and performance, together with their aesthetic styles within a critical context that includes contemporary issues surrounding government sanctioned regeneration and public arts funding.

Alastair MacKinven was born in Clatterbridge, UK in 1971. The artist lives and works in London, and is represented by Hotel, London.

For further information and images
on this exhibition, please contact Laura Bowen, Focal Point Gallery’s Exhibition and Marketing Officer on 01702 534 108
 laurabowen@southend.gov.uk

Alastair MacKinven`s ‘Performances 2006 to 2009’ is generously supported by Southend Borough Council and Arts Council England, East.