Our next artist residency sees REBECCA MOSS relocate her urban interventionist practice from rural Essex to the Potteries. Rebecca's practice critically examines heroic narratives through absurdist gestures, which can take a wide variety of forms across performance, video and sculpture. She is particularly interested in how interventions and gestures informed by slapstick comedy can speak to power through humour, and are intensified by a feminist perspective.
Over the course of 5 weeks, Rebecca will be walking and responding to this new (to her) setting, seeking out the glitches and incongruities that characterise the urban environment. The residency will include some public participatory activities - more details soon.
Rebecca's RESIDENCY UPDATES can be found HERE.
I would like to use the residency in Stoke as an opportunity to think more closely about my artistic approach, particularly around the site-responsive gesture and intervention. Over the last ten years, I have been intuitively drawn to a way of working where I have inserted myself into a scenario (these have usually been environments that could be considered ‘wild’ or ‘natural’) and have provoked an encounter with the landscape. I have interacted especially with animals, water and architecture, which are key elements of the rural Essex landscape where I grew up.
These provocations have taken a wide range of forms across performance and sculpture, and have been documented using video and photography. I reached this way of working as I have a strong desire to shape the world to be more feminist, open and inclusive, and this approach enables me to make very direct and immediate contact with the world. I also think about my presence as a woman, and how my identity in these works could offer a different perspective to the heroic male Situationists, Psychogeographers and Romantics that historically have dominated this way of working.
What does it mean to shape the world to be more feminist? For me, it would mean emphasis on horizontal power structures, a world where vulnerability is not seen as a weakness, and where humans and non-human beings are valued equally. My interventions and gestures are humorous, and I think this often comes from a place of despair, and wanting to dismantle the elements of an environment that make me feel oppressed or restricted. Humour is a very powerful tool to be immensely critical yet seductive, with an unthreatening appearance.
These interventions offer speculative alternatives to the reality that I am confronted by. I tease out what I glimpse under the surface of an environment and shape it into an encounter that offers new possibilities.
For the residency in Stoke, I envisage that I will respond to elements of the urban landscape, thinking deeply about my feminist, interventionist approach – the post-industrial narrative and architecture of the city, the daily lives and realities of the residents who live there, and the relationships between human and non-human beings. This will begin with some walks around the streets to spot idiosyncrasies in this environment and see what I am intuitively drawn towards. I will especially be looking for incongruities and surprises.
– Rebecca Moss, 2021
from Rebecca's recent April Fools Film Club talk with Rebecca Davies
Rebecca Moss (b.1991, Essex, UK) is an artist whose work critically examines heroic narratives through absurdist gestures, which can take a wide variety of forms across performance, video and sculpture. She is particularly interested in how interventions and gestures informed by slapstick comedy can speak to power through humour, and are intensified by a feminist perspective.
Her work has recently taken the form of short videos, where she stages encounters with the natural world and performs to the camera with props sourced in local fancy dress shops. By embracing an eco-feminist philosophy, the works seek to undermine grandiosity, transcendence and monumentality, by humorously emphasising human fallibility. The works bring together the artist's internal, emotional experiences and the unpredictability of the natural world. Ideas are often reached by walking in the landscape, triggering memories and sensations in her body. These works explore a reciprocal but precarious relationship between the artist's body and natural rhythms, and the wider politics of this engagement in a time of ecological instability.
In 2016, Moss undertook a residency with Access Gallery in Vancouver called "23 Days at Sea," where the initial plan was to travel by container ship across the Pacific ocean, eventually disembarking in Shanghai. However, ten days into the residency, Hanjin Shipping went bankrupt, leaving the artist, Captain and crew stuck at sea, on a ship that was unable to pay to get into any docks. They anchored in international waters 12km from the coast of Tokyo and waited for over two weeks for further instruction. The artist subsequently created the video work 'International Waters' which was comprised of her footage collected during her time spent stuck at anchor.
The artist has also undertaken large-scale sculptural projects, which emphasise a sense of the ridiculous and anti-monumentality in their scale. This includes her 'Lions' project - an alternative flood defence consisting of 41 Baroque concrete lions, made with a concrete garden ornament factory in Somerset. This was commissioned by Somerset Art Works and additionally supported by The Elephant Trust, who described it as a 'surreal bestial army.'
It’s little surprise that the work of Rebecca Moss has frequently been spoken of in the same breath as Dada-inspired artists like Jim Moir (better known as Vic Reeves) thanks to its mixture of absurdist humour, playfulness, randomness and finely tuned wit. Her pieces are mostly in video and performance, and occasionally have been created through sheer, nigh-on-unbelievable circumstance rather than planning—like the time she intended to create a comedic floating art project but found herself stranded on a 65,000-tonne ship off the coast of Japan.
– Emily Gosling, Elephant Art Magazine, 2020
Rebecca Moss is interested in moments of disruption, chaos and failure (…) Seemingly haphazard and unprocessed – but in fact deliberately executed – her gestures subversively set the ridiculous and banal against the monumental and sublime.
– Anna Smolak, Future Generation Art Prize, 2017