Hayward Gallery Touring’s landmark exhibition, British Art Show, opened its ninth edition at Aberdeen Art Gallery at the weekend.
Widely acknowledged as the most important and ambitious recurrent exhibition of contemporary art produced in the UK, the British Art Show brings the work of artists defining new directions in contemporary art to four UK cities.
Following its launch in Aberdeen, the exhibition will continue its national tour to multiple venues across the cities of Wolverhampton, Manchester and Plymouth throughout 2022.
British Art Show 9 is curated by Irene Aristizábal and Hammad Nasar and will showcase the work of 47 artists in total – with 33 presented in Aberdeen, including many significant new commissions and site-specific installations. Focusing on work made since 2015, the exhibition reflects a precarious moment in Britain’s history.
During this time, the politics of identity and nation, and concerns of social, racial and environmental justice have pervaded public consciousness. The artists presented in the exhibition have responded in critical ways to this complex context.
Through their works, they imagine new futures, propose alternative economies, explore new modes of resistance and find ways of living together. They do so through film, photography, painting, sculpture, and performance, as well as through multimedia projects that don’t sit easily in any one category.
The exhibition is structured around three main themes – Healing, Care and Reparative History; Tactics for Togetherness; Imagining New Futures – and has been conceived as a cumulative experience, adapting and changing for each city, and presenting different combinations of artists and artworks that respond to their distinctive local contexts.
In Aberdeen, the exhibition will focus on the effort to develop alternative systems for ethical cohabitation in the world. The presentation centres on exploring different forms of knowledge – including spirituality – to heal the earth, to resist the injustices of extractivism, and develop non-exploitative ways of living with the non-human.
The participating artists for British Art Show 9 in Aberdeen include: Michael Armitage, Simeon Barclay, Zach Blas, Kathrin Böhm, Maeve Brennan, James Bridle, Helen Cammock, Cooking Sections, Jamie Crewe, Patrick Goddard, Anne Hardy, Celia Hempton, Joey Holder, Marguerite Humeau, Lawrence Lek, Ghislaine Leung, Paul Maheke, Elaine Mitchener, Grace Ndiritu, Uriel Orlow, Hardeep Pandhal, Florence Peake, Joanna Piotrowska, Abigail Reynolds, Margaret Salmon, Hrair Sarkissian, Katie Schwab, Tai Shani, Marianna Simnett, Sin Wai Kin (fka Victoria Sin), Hanna Tuulikki, Alberta Whittle, Rehana Zaman.
Over half of the works will receive their UK premiere, including many significant new commissions and site specific installations, such as:
● Maeve Brennan’s new iteration of The Goods (2018-ongoing); a series of moving image works and photographs which take an in-depth look at the international traffic in looted cultural objects.
● A new presentation of Cooking Sections’ long-term research project, CLIMAVORE
(2015–ongoing) that involves a selection of restaurants in Aberdeen replacing farmed salmon on their menu with a CLIMAVORE dish, featuring local bivalves and seaweeds that filter and oxygenate the water.
● Patrick Goddard’s new film commission Animal Antics (2021), an absurdist commentary on the Anthropocene featuring a woman and her talking dog. In this film, the two species wander around a zoo encountering the forlorn caged inhabitants while reflecting on man’s relationship with the natural world. The work is co-commissioned with Film and Video Umbrella, FLAMIN London, and EWERK Freiburg.
● A new participatory project by Grace Ndiritu will take place for the closing of the exhibition in October 2021. Plant Theatre For Plant People (2021), aims to create a community of people who will learn from plants through bonding exercises, meditation classes and workshops, connecting with plant spirits, and exploring ecological activism. The project culminates in a processional performance through the streets of Aberdeen. This work is made possible by Arts Council England support.
● Florence Peake’s trio of new works, CRUDE CARE; a ceramic sculpture, a performance and a film informed by Aberdeen’s landscape and the treatment of precarious workers in the care sector. This work is made possible through Art Fund support and will be acquired into the collection of Aberdeen Art Gallery.
● A new instalment of Tai Shani’s experiential installation Neon Hieroglyph (2021), calling on Shani’s research into ergot, a fungus with toxic and psychoactive properties.
● Abigail Reynolds’ Elliptical Reading at Aberdeen Central Library. This will be a regular reading hour at libraries in each of the BAS9 cities. Readers meet to share short sections from a favourite book, creating between them an unruly text or word collage, which builds over time. In Aberdeen, visitors to the Central Library can find books selected by nine local readers which have been re-bound by the artist and re-shelved in alternative locations chosen by the readers.
The exhibition includes a programme of artist films and a dedicated website which enables artists, including those not showing works in Aberdeen, to share works online. The online programme will launch with works by Andy Holder, Mandy El-Sayegh, Hannah Tuulikki and Abigail Reynolds. The exhibition is also accompanied by a publication that includes curatorial essays and individual artist texts.
A varied programme of events and activities for visitors of all ages, both in person and online, will extend the reach of British Art Show 9 beyond the walls of Aberdeen Art Gallery.
The exhibition is accompanied by a publication published by Hayward Gallery Publishing which includes two wide-ranging curatorial essays, over 200 colour illustrations and original texts on all 47 artists.
Councillor Marie Boulton, Aberdeen City Council’s culture spokesperson said: ‘Aberdeen Art Gallery has a long history of collecting contemporary art. From its foundation in 1885 to the present day this commitment has brought unique and internationally significant artwork to the city.
‘We are thrilled that British Art Show is visiting Aberdeen for the first time, where BAS9 is being presented in the award-winning Aberdeen Art Gallery and at the Central Library. We are excited that local people and visitors to the city will be the first to enjoy this landmark exhibition which opens up the work of a new group of extraordinary artists to the widest audience.’
Amanda Catto, head of visual arts, Creative Scotland said: ‘It’s always a great delight to welcome the British Art Show to Scotland.
‘British Arts Show 9 is an ambitious and expansive exhibition that gives the public a great opportunity to experience, in real life, the diversity and vitality of contemporary art across the UK. With the generous support of National Lottery funds through Creative Scotland the show will also provide new opportunities for people to develop their own creativity through an ambitious community engagement and outreach programme.’