Firstsite presents Play It Again: The art of remaking – an exhibition featuring ‘remade’ objects, events and films, produced by artists and the public. The exhibition showcases how history, contemporary culture and our own everyday experiences inspire repetition, remaking and reenactment in different forms.
The exhibition includes the work of contemporary artists Heather Agyepong, Laura Eldret, Michel François and Guillaume Désanges, Sofia Hultén, Hetain Patel, David Sherry, Allison Smith and Gillian Wearing. Also on display will be Star Wars Uncut, a project that was produced through ‘crowdsourcing’ material from members of the public, and historic reproductions made by Peter Shorer.
Alongside live action role-play, reenactment has traditionally focused on immersion into history, enabling an individual to experience a past era, event or lifestyle. Play It Again engages with artists, makers and fans to explore how this enthusiasm transfers into art and popular culture.
Included in the exhibition is Gillian Wearing’s seminal film Dancing in Peckham (1994), in which Wearing dances in a Peckham shopping mall as if in her own bedroom, to the bemusement of passers-by. The work was inspired by a woman Wearing saw dancing madly by herself at the Royal Festival Hall in London. Rather than film the woman dancing, Wearingset out to re-create the scene. Dancing in Peckham is a portrait in which rather than depict another person, the artist attempts to become them.
Hetain Patel’s work uses the language of popular culture and performance to explore identity formation. In The First Dance (2012), Patel’s boyhood fantasies of becoming a kung fu warrior manifest in the restaging of a scene from the Ang Lee-directed film, ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ (2000). The film’s narrative is relocated to the domestic reality of Patel’s South London flat and the lead roles are played by him and his wife. Fiesta Transformer (2013) is a sculpture created by Patel with his father who is a mechanic. It celebrates the artist’s passion for the 1980s ‘Transformers’ cartoon and action figure franchise, converting Patel’s 1988 Ford Fiesta into a squatting human-like figure.
Recognising the passion amongst fans that often tilts towards obsession, Star Wars Uncut: A New Hope (2010) remakes one of the world’s most beloved films. In 2009, Casey Pugh, a developer dedicated to creating interactive experiences on the web, asked internet users to recreate ‘Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope’ (1977) into a fan film 15 seconds at a time.
In just a few months thousands of fans around the world had responded with extraordinary creativity, resulting in a feature-length film with scenes acted out by children, cartoons and cats filmed in fans’ living rooms and garages across the world.
In Too Many Blackamoors (2015), Heather Agyepong presents herself in nineteenth century costume in the guise of Lady Sarah Forbes Bonetta, the adopted goddaughter of Queen Victoria who came to live in England from West Africa. Using the visual language of cartede-visite photography, Agyepong’s images are based on her own personal experiences as a young black woman dealing with the macro and micro traumas of racism encountered while travelling around European countries.
The series uses the ideas of ‘Reenactment Phototherapy’, a process of psychotherapy through photography in which the subject acts out past histories as a tool of catharsis and transformation, developed by artists Rosy Martin and Jo Spence in the 1980s.
Michel François and Guillaume Désanges’s Pavilion of Art (2013), curated for the 8th Biennale of Louvain la Neuve, Belgium, outsources the production of artworks to Dafen, the ‘art village’ in south-eastern China that has specialised in copying paintings by western masters for over twenty years. Dafen’s factory-like production system once accounted for 70 percent of all oil paintings produced worldwide. Désanges and François present anonymous paintings of works by Roy Lichtenstein, Mark Rothko and Andy Warhol that were remade in Dafen from image files sent over the internet. The series challenges the value systems of contemporary art that recognise the brand names of popular artists over the value of an individual’s creative labour.
‘Play It Again is an exciting exhibition that demonstrates the enthusiasm, passion and, occasionally, obsession for remaking and reenactment. The show invites viewers to imagine themselves in the guise of their favourite film or period of history, and encourages new ways of thinking about both art and popular culture.’ – Firstsite Director Sally Shaw
Play It Again
30 June – 9 September 2018