Gasworks presents the group exhibition Late Barbarians, which includes video, photography and sculpture by Juan Downey (1940–1993, Chile), Lili Dujourie (b.1941, Belgium),
Sidsel Meineche Hansen (b.1981, Denmark), Matts Leiderstam (b.1956, Sweden), Chris Marker (1921–2012, France)
Focusing on the notion of corporeal memory, the exhibition explores how shifting social codes and cultural values have been embodied in historical Western European art and architecture. The exhibition takes its title from an expression by German sociologist Norbert Elias, which suggests that our future descendants may eventually consider us to have lived during an extended medieval period, implying that we share far greater affinities with our Barbarian ancestors than we might like to think. Similarly, the works on show question linear interpretations of history, invoking a present that is haunted by the gestures of our ancestors.
Paying particular attention to art historical representations of the body, works range from photographs that propose a queer re-reading of the gestures depicted in Renaissance paintings (Matts Leiderstam) to abstract, single-take “dances to camera” that attempt to divorce particular habits of the body from their entrenched social connotations (Lili Dujourie) and a virtual exhibition tour that takes place in the online world of Second Life (Chris Marker). In addition, Juan Downey’s video essay The Looking Glass (1981) decodes the iconography of the mirror in well-known artworks by Velázquez, Holbein and Picasso, and a new commission by Sidsel Meineche Hansen entitled HIS HEAD (2013-) comprises a clay sculpture and symposium that together examine the human head, separate from the body, as a symbol of patriarchy and power.
Late Barbarians is the second exhibition of The Civilising Process, a yearlong programme of exhibitions and events at Gasworks inspired by Elias’ eponymous 1939 book.