At the heart of Exeter, almost hidden down Gandy Street, is Exeter Phoenix. Apart from being the home to various ‘Showcase’ events, Phoenix has plenty to offer. It’s an exciting, high-caliber arts venue that is famous for its cinema, theatre, radio station, art workshops and art galleries. From the 4th of May, it is home to Another Spring, an exhibition that showcases the work of several internationally renowned artists on the topic of citizenship and politics in Western society. Curated by art historian and critic Dr. Jean Wainwright, Another Spring brings together the work of Andreas Angelidakis, Forensic Architecture, David Birkin, Layla Curtis, kennardphillipps and Steffi Klenz. In their pieces, the artists reflect current trends of changing notions of citizenship, concerns over nationality, and the ever-present ‘problem’ of our borders. Strolling through the gallery made me question my Britishness, my connection to Europe, and the actions of our politicians during this very significant period in our country’s political reality. And that’s exactly what art should make you do – it should make you think, make you feel, and most importantly, make you question the world you live in. Another Spring does all that.
Curator Dr. Wainwright is the Director of the School of Fine Art and Photography Research Centre at the University for the Creative Arts. She is recognised globally as an expert on Andy Warhol, and has appeared on Channel 4, the BBC, Resonance FM and BBC Radio 4. Dr. Wainwright has chosen an incredibly relevant and interesting collection of pieces, and it would be incredibly insightful to dig a little deeper and find out what prompted her to choose each particular artist. She is running a curator’s tour on the 26th May at 2:30pm, which I would’ve loved to attend had I been available. It’s free, so I’d definitely recommend going!
The first piece that particularly stood out to me was a wall mural consisting of prints of David Cameron’s face by kennardphillips. Kennardphillips is a collaboration between Peter Kennard, a London born photomontage artist, and Cat Phillips, owner of a small print shop in London. They initially created art in reaction to the Iraq war, but their work has adapted to new conflicts and events, and now confront wider war and politics. The piece chosen for Another Spring is made of newspapers, The Financial Times in particular, with Cameron’s face printed several times on various sheets. What’s shocking about this piece is that in each print different parts of Cameron’s face has been ripped away or damaged to reveal different images behind them: a huge hole in the middle of his face reveals a war scene, another hole reveals a roulette table found in casinos, and another, a part of a ‘POLICE’ logo. Kennardphillips have created a criticism on social and political change and a protest against the actions of our politicians, or in this case, ex-PM Cameron.
Layla Curtis’ work was also extremely thought-provoking. Both her pieces are hybrid maps; they look like normal maps at first, but upon closer inspection, are anything but. One of her pieces is made up of a collage of road maps which make apparently familiar images into perplexing and provocative variations. In what looks like a seamless, normal map, you have Madrid next to London and numerous German towns around both. Her other piece consists of a world map, but the countries have been placed in different locations. Curtis studied at the Edinburgh College of Art and the Chelsea College of Art, and she spent a year in Japan where she created her hybrid map series. To me, her work questions the meaning behind citizenship and national borders, and made me think about whether the importance of ‘the state’ and ‘the nation’ will become more or less important in the years to come. Will it be even more difficult for us to live as one group of humans on our planet, or will it being increasingly harder to live in harmony and peace?
Overall, Another Spring is a small but powerful exhibition. All pieces provoke interesting and difficult questions, and Dr. Wainwright has created an experience that truly reflects the fear of “national invasion and economic erosion” by outsiders. It’ll be at the Phoenix daily until the 17th of June, from 10:30 to 17:00. With free admission it’s the perfect revision break, or if you’re lucky enough to have finished your assignments, a good way to spend some time appreciating art.
– Luanna De Abreu Coelho