Seven years after we first worked with Victoria Lucas, in Stoke-on-Trent’s visual arts biennial Conjunction 10: Escape, AirSpace Gallery, in association with Mark Devereux Projects*
, welcomes Victoria back for a landmark solo exhibition, Lay of the Land (and other such myths)
Combining work made over the last two years, with brand new content specific to the city, Lay of the Land (and other such myths) seeks to challenge anti-progressive forms of power through an imaginary subversive place. Dissident, fictive island constructions cite cinematic, geographic and literary references to explore a scene in which radical representations of women control their own space, and their own bodies, on their own terms.
Stepping into the gallery reveals an otherworldly space that blurs the boundaries between fiction and reality. Using JG Ballard’s 1974 novel Concrete Island as a starting point, Lucas has explored the Brownfield sites situated close to AirSpace Gallery to produce new sculptural, photographic and video works for the gallery installation. Interpreting these sites as ‘deserts’ and with references to real and fictional female characters throughout, this location is juxtaposed with Lucas’s recent works inspired by the California Desert.
Punctuating the strong visual aesthetic of the exhibition is a new sound work developed by Lucas in collaboration with singers from across the region. Working from harmony to a chaotic, discordant sound, the all female choir individually and collectively fill the installation with their voices. Celebrating the launch of the exhibition on Friday 5 May, this specially assembled choir will be performing live within the gallery.
*Lay of the Land is presented in association with Mark Devereux Projects as part of AirSpace Gallery's programme commitment to independent curatorial practice.
Lay of the Land
The Feminist Framework
▶︎Traversing Teresa de Lauretis’ 1989 theory that women are simultaneously absent and present in dominant culture - ‘constantly spoken of
’ while remaining ‘inaudible’
, ‘displayed as spectacle and yet unrepresented’
, this exhibition aims to interrogate contemporary, post-digital representations of gender to determine a position on how this slippage has been effected by technology. 2
▶︎Amelia Jones in her book Self/Image addresses this shift, stating that the body now ‘extends into and is understood as an image - but as an image understood itself, reciprocally, as embodied
’. Untangling the body from its image allows one to objectively consider their potential beyond it, and this is the crux, the responsibility, of the artificial islands that the occupants inhabit as part of the work.3
▶︎Rebecca Solnit’s writing on the regulation of female sexuality in public and private space becomes part of a feminist framework, specifically in reference to the act of 'walking on ground concerned with controlling women’s sexuality
▶︎Eve Dawoad states that it is ‘the societies we live in that work to inhibit female behaviour and impose norms upon us’
. My work seeks to interrogate constructed place as a space dislocated from these external expectations.
- Victoria Lucas, March 2017
1▶︎ Chaudhuri, S. (2009). Feminist film theorists. 1st ed. London [u.a.]: Routledge, pp.62-63. 2▶︎Jones, A. (2006). Self image: Technology, representation, and the contemporary subject. New York: Taylor & Francis, p.8 3▶︎Solnit, Rebecca. Wanderlust: A History of Walking. London: Granta Publications, 2014, pp. 234 - 237 4▶︎Plowright, N. (Ed.) (2016). Eve Dawoud. Loose Associations, 2 (iv), p.79.
Victoria Lucas Lay of the Land: Landscape and Other Stories
a commissioned text by Dr. Paula McCloskey
‘What happens when the other is absent in the structure of the world? Only the brutal opposition of sky and earth reigns with an insupportable light and an obscure abyss
’ (Deleuze, 1984: 56)
Landscape. Land, earth, soil, the ground, territory, displacement, mobility, conflict, power. Landscape - that which is visible; that which can be captured by a single perspective. But surely this is a fiction? A landscape is always a re-imagining, an encounter from within a body, a located body, itself constituted by multiple belongings; a collective of parts that, in any moment, more or less hang together. A landscape in these terms knows sexual difference; sexual differencing. Landscape is no longer captured or rendered as other. Instead, the landscape is used as a being place, as an emergent place. The literal piece of land or territory that one can see is freed from its fixed view from nowhere. This is the territory of Victoria Lucas’ work: where the landscape is continually being produced, as a site of co-production between the artist and the onlooker, a threshold for dreaming, for a radical imagining of new worlds to become. As we encounter the Lay of the Land, no longer do we privilege a single perspective but we open up to multiple trajectories and ways of becoming, as the ship now sets sail over, across, and to un- charted territories. As we travel we are invited to ask our own questions and make our own investigations.
The invisibility of the feminine is woven into the visibility of Lucas’ landscape. What they are transformed into are places of feminine-becomings, rather than some notion of essential femininity. This non-domestic landscape is a place of feminine difference; an urgent meeting with, and for, feminine-differencing. Here the earth is vital, as living matter that was here long before humans populated and polluted it, and which will continue to live long after we are dirt and dust. But, for the time being at least, humans and the earth are intertwined. To invoke feminine difference here reminds us that the feminine is available to all humans because, as Bracha Ettinger suggests, pregnancy is a time and space of co-becoming which is always with another. Through the contemplation of this particular feminine, the objects and their resonating affects create the potential of generative encounters for us all. The curiosity of objects, of the differing landscape, the actual and the virtual, the visual and silent landscape, multiple faces and voices, work together so we are rendered in no doubt that we are not in the realm of I and other, but of multiple and transversing relations that move in different directions and at different speeds. These are places of threshold, of co-affection and co-poieses as we the viewers are invited to contemplate who and what we are as we enter the landscape, and importantly we are provoked to ask - who and what we are becoming? How do we co-exist and co-emerge with the earth, with other humans and non-humans?
In Lucas’ landscapes therefore, is the background musings of the human impact on the earth, the quiet politics of difference is rendered both beautiful and inescapable; the very vibrations of the earth are summoned and recast as new sensations. The absence and presence of human bodies; tree bodies; animal bodies. The sweeping silences and the affective chorality. No longer, then, only landscape of surface or vista, but with the Lay of the Land a sweeping mythic-scape is created. These are events, happenings (in the now of the world, the past, and the future), outside of time, as we are asked to re- imagine the world as it is.
Lucas’ melancholic landscapes constitutes an eerie encounter with time; with a time that has run out of time, and which is running scared in all directions. They dazzle the eyes with colour vibrations, shake out the map of memory of the too easily forgotten recent past; of the West and 1960s Southern California, its rhythms and movements. The abstract, figurative, representational and anti-representational dance across and against landscapes drenched and dreamy; dreaming that they take the excesses of nature, the joining of the human body, the female human body, to the earth, and create a space for you to find a place of your own.
This fictioning works to disorient, offering a haptic understanding of our relationship to terrain or earth and of its relation to the living, producing a new kind of landscape. The forces and energy of this abused planet are ever present. As we go deeper the fantastical, mythical and psychedelic elements in the work transforms and disrupts the notion of landscape. As one moves across the room, Lucas’ careful configuration of things, artefacts and happenings summon a necessary point of collapse. The push and pull of the different realities, the absurdity of scale, the bizarre juxtaposing of the different objects, all vibrating with sonorous affective antennae. The sculptural and cinematic form, the creation of new myths through different viewpoints; a montage of scale; a collage of speed. Time itself is a material as it moves across through and within the different the objects.
Lucas’ work itself might be seen as a creative evolution to the questioning and tensions of space, time, perception and memory. This work isn’t about a fixed vista, but attends to difference and multiplicity. These differences are incarnated in the materials and moves across them as they trans-connect. The different vibrations of each object, the large gold rocks, the films, the voice, the concrete, the paper is palpable. These carefully choreographed relations between each object generate a dance with those who choose to take a hand. This dance takes us away from the actual world and into the virtual. In this passage the work creates a meditation of a becoming world embodying past, present and future. Extraction, compression, metamorphosis. And when we return we are re-made. The careful juxtapositions of objects allows them to speak to one another, for some they literally call out, sing and speak up - quivering, vibrating and vital - they have much to say. They cry out for the earth; they calmly invite us in; they talk in riddles about non-human chimeras; and they speak in hushed tones of an original feminine. Her mother’s voice, the original transmission those sonorous murmurings that call us into being, into belongings; always becomings. These carefully choreographed relations between each object generate a dance with those who choose to take a hand. This dance takes us away from the actual world and into the virtual. In this passage the work creates a meditation of a becoming world embodying past, present and future. Extraction, compression, metamorphosis.
And when we return we are re-made.
Lay of the Land - Events
Lay of the Land (and other such myths)
May 5th 6pm-9pm
Join us for the public preview of this brand new solo exhibition, which will include a premiere performance of a site-responsive sound work, composed by Victoria Lucas, in collaboration with a group of locally based female singers. This sound work has been developed through a series of artist-led workshops, which focused on nearby brownfield sites and their potential as subversive places. Working from a harmony towards a chaotic, discordant sound, the group will fill the installation with their voices in a way that extends their presence away from the body in to the surrounding space.
The Artist Soup Kitchen
Reflections of Belongings and Becomings: Art, Maternity and Family Art Activism
With Dr. Paula McCloskey
Saturday, May 20th, 12pm-2pm
The Resource Room
In 2016, the performance artist Marina Abramović said that having children would have been ‘a disaster for her work’. She went on to say that, ‘In my opinion that’s the reason why women aren’t as successful as men in the art world. There’s plenty of talented women. Why do men take over the important positions? It’s simple. Love, family, children – a woman doesn’t want to sacrifice all of that.’ Her words follow other female artists, such as Tracey Emin who, when interviewed in The Independent, said: ‘There are good artists that have children. Of course there are. They are called men. Mothers are too “emotionally torn.”’
Recently, there has been a proliferation of women artists who are exploring maternity in all its myriad forms. In this Soup Kitchen, Dr. Paula McCloskey
will explore the challenges facing artists with young families. What does it mean to be an artist and a mother? How do you test and challenge the existing art structures and models of traditional art institutions? And, how do you juggle the demands of parenting young children alongside artistic and other paid labour, often with little or no support?
Please click here
to book your ticket
The Artist Soup Kitchens, devised by Anna Francis, have been running at AirSpace since 2012, and are designed to offer an informal creative space for artists to discuss contemporary issues and concerns and the effects they have on their practices. For more information about the Soup Kitchens, including details on how to book your place, please visit the gallery website.
Lay of the Land
In Conversation With
May 20th, 2.30pm-3.30pm
In conversation with Dr. Paula McCloskey
, Victoria Lucas will tour us around the exhibition, offering insights into and discussion points around this major new installation. Within the talk, Victoria will broaden out her thinking to include the feminist framework
underpinning the work. For more information on the Tour, including booking details, please visit the Gallery website.
Lay of the Land - Documentation
The perimeters of our cultural and societal landscapes are breached in Victoria Lucas's major solo exhibition. Continuing its multi-faceted journey – previously touring to HOME in Manchester and the London Art Fair – Lay of the Land (and other such myths) evolves into its latest incarnation within the confines of AirSpace Gallery. Working with Mark Devereux Projects to curate an immersive installation, the Sheffield-based artist has created a glamorous and cinematic dystopian terrain with a city specific soundscape that examines both female representation and the urban wastelands that lay within our blindspots.
Adopting the notion of life beyond conformity from JG Ballard's 1974 novel, Concrete Island, Lucas's project is littered with Westernised histories and remnants of the female form. Comprised of photographic prints, video compositions, gleaming boulders and sound works – all of which appear sublimely psychedelic, bar a pile of plundered brownfield rubble – Lay of the Land reframes visual and textual signifiers into an engaging, critical discourse. From the moment you pass the gallery's window, you recognise that another world, or way of living, awaits.
The spectral colours of Psychedelic Western #3 (2015) provide a rich exhibition excerpt – its vibrant and effervescent depictions of the Alabama hills are repeated in the show's wall-sized prints and theatrical screens. A feminine sigh welcomes you into the space, while deceptively light boulders – made from layers of polystyrene, fibreglass and jesmonite – catch your eye as they glisten under the gallery's spotlights. Drawn to their weighty surface and scale, the viewer is encouraged to delve between the crevices of this 'fool's gold' that lay propped in a state of poised instability.
Calling to mind the work of Pipilotti Rist are videos on flat-screen monitors presenting disembodied mouths floating across near-iridescent martian landscapes. Imaginary Voice #1 and #2 (2016) exude sensually-charged colours amongst digitally engineered anamorphic forms. Likewise, Body / Image #1 (2016) overlays feminine remnants over a grassy scene punctuated by a rock-face that resembles an atomic mushroom cloud. An apocalyptic break-down of digital matter makes way for a disseminated aesthetic that questions the infiltration of the virtual into our everyday realities. The digital-self abuses our perceptions and blends femininity's realities with falsities.
Providing a 'way-in' to an alternative reality is Concrete Island (2017). Comprised of an ultra-violet backdrop – part Stoke brownfield, part Lanzarote – it invites viewers to lay on one of two concrete benches; each measuring the average height of a woman in the UK. Laying across these cold, minimalist slabs, the audience is enlivened by a pre-recorded soundscape by vocalists through a set of headphones. The notion of the female fighting against 'dominant culture' is evident in the pitching of an all-female harmony against dormant blocks that mimic the sculptures of Donald Judd or Carl Andre.
The females challenge their entombed form in a penetrative soundtrack that disassociates their voices from the traditional notion of 'singing'. They pierce through the facade of external expectation and with it, our rigid view that women, and the abandoned wasteland, exist inaudibly on the outer-rim of our constructed society. As with Concrete Island, video piece A Staging excels in showcasing the sheer, non-linguistic power of the choir's vocal chords in an isolated terrain. Set within a brownfield, the five performers are free to control their own bodies and space, with Lucas providing only a minor reminder of 'order' through her orchestration. Beginning in a choir-esque semicircle, the group disperses as the sound builds and reaches a cultural 'breaking point'.
Lay of the Land is a visual and acoustic portrayal of Lucas's research into the 'Feminist Framework'. The artist's digitalisation of feminine remnants correlates with Amelia Jones's notion that the body “is understood as an image – but as an image understood itself, as embodied,” while Teresa de Lauretis's theory that females remain “inaudible” is addressed through the audibility of women in a non-conventional way. Lucas challenges the inhibitions that society places upon gender through a dissection, and merging, of 'place'. The artist moves freely from the glamorous Californian desert to the 'damaged' brownfield: a location where women can walk on unclaimed ground. In line with Rebecca Solnit's idea that society is “walking on ground concerned with controlling women's sexuality”, Lucas suggests that this 'undesirable' land is the closest thing to a verifiable, albeit abstracted, reality.
- Selina Oakes, 2017
for an interview with Victoria Lucas
for an interview with Mark Devereux
for Selina Oakes' feature on Victoria Lucas
Victoria Lucas (b.1982) is a British artist based in Sheffield. She holds a BA in Fine Art Sculpture from Norwich School of Art (2004) and a MFA in Fine Art from The University of Leeds (2007). Her work has been exhibited internationally, including a solo exhibition at Grizzly Grizzly, Philadelphia and group shows at Shangri-la, Joshua Tree; Casa Maauad, Mexico City and Vapaan Taiteen Tila, Helsinki. Recent commissions include a permanent touchscreen artwork for the NHS Wilberforce Health centre in Hull and a video artwork for the National Portrait Gallery in London. She has artist book works in the Tate Archive, the MOMA New York and the V&A collection amongst others. She has worked both independently and collaboratively on a number of curated projects and is currently board director at Bloc Projects in Sheffield. Lucas is a Fine Art Lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire and PhD Student at Sheffield Hallam University
Mark Devereux Projects
Mark Devereux Projects works with artists to advance their respective practices and careers by providing high-quality, tailored professional development. Investing in a reactive and responsive approach to each artist’s requirements, this provision includes mentoring, production and presentation opportunities aimed at assisting practitioners as they work towards the next stage of their careers. Mark Devereux Projects' objective is to provide long-term support for artists, underpinned by meaningful collaboration.
Paula McCloskey is an Irish-born artist living in Sheffield, UK. As a visual artist she has mainly produced drawings, performance and site-specific collaborative work. She is co-organiser of a place of their own - an experimental practice located in the discoveries and potentials that we find between contemporary art and spatial practice. She is also a writer and post-doctoral researcher. Paula is a Research Fellow at Nottingham University and Participation Manager at Site Gallery, Sheffield, UK.