'My Heart is like a Singing Bird', 2018, Lucy Gunning, film stills, courtesy of the artist
'My Heart is like a Singing Bird', 2018, Lucy Gunning, The Bower, London, installation view courtesy of the artist and The Bower. Photograph: Jonathan Bassett
Lucy Gunning / My Heart is like a Singing Bird
Opening 27 September 2018 6-8pm
Exhibition continues 28 September - 28 October 2018
Open Wed-Sun 12-5pm
Lucy Gunning has been commissioned to make new work for The Bower and its location within Brunswick Park. Over the summer she has been observing the park as a space designated for urban nature and pastime and its human and non human occupants; becoming an occupant herself. She has also been engaging with the wider social and political contexts of the building and the area, responding to what isn’t there as well as what is. Gunning has developed an installation for the particular context of the gallery, including occasional live interventions which will coexist with life in the park.
Lucy Gunning’s practice is an encounter with space, the intangible and the present moment. She makes installations that juxtapose elements and stages live events that have a prosaic relation to the performative, and is also involved in ongoing collaborative practice. Recent exhibitions include: [these roarers] Whitstable Biennale 2018 with Bernice Donszelmann and Helen Robertson. ‘Plan Un-plan’, Stephen Lawrence Gallery, Greenwich University, 2017. ‘Against Landscape’, Reid Gallery, Glasgow school of Art, 2017. ‘Architecture as Metaphor’, Griffin Gallery, London, 2017. Residencies include the Kenneth Armitage Foundation 2012-14, The Wordsworth Trust 2007, The British School in Rome 2001, and she received The Paul Hamlyn Award for Artists in 2001. She is a Senior Lecturer at Chelsea College of Art, and the 2018-19 recipient of the Lorne Trust Scholarship. She is represented by Matt’s Gallery, London.
Generously supported by Arts Council England and The Elephant Trust.
Dear Joyce and Louisa
I have been wondering about My Heart is like a Singing Bird as a possible title. It's a line from a Christina Rossetti poem that Virginia Woolf discusses in A Room of One’s Own. She talks about it in relation to pre-war poetry as something almost unthinkable post-war, almost laughable….anyhow it jumped off the page. I like it in relation to the frequent birdsong of the robin that has been following me around the park. But I’m also rather embarrassed by it, we don’t talk about the heart much in the art world. Plus there is an assumption that ones heart feeling like a singing bird would be a nice feeling. I’ve been learning a bit of Chinese recently and the character for heart (xin) is also mind, which implies a more integrated view.
Anyhow perhaps it's better than Birds, Boards & Buckets or the Inside out of outside in or whatever it was...
I remember saying to you how the building reminded me of a Chinese house in a Literati painting. The scale of it in relation to the park, the way the roof curves up slightly at the edges and the way the path flows away from it like a river. These paintings weren’t exhibited. They were commissioned for private use as images of harmonious natural environments for contemplation. It is like I have been occupying this space.
It has been very interesting spending a lot of time in the park over the last month becoming aware of its rhythms and patterns, the regulars and how the park is frequented. It is well used and also gives a lot. People take exercise, get air, walk by the trees, meet, chat, greet passing dogs, people often come alone but also to meet up, or walk a dog. Or they bring children to play. Bikes get ridden, dances get practiced. Although a public park, it feels like a communal garden. As well as the robin’s song, the great sound of tennis permeates frequently.
I realise in my occupation of the gallery that I have become one of its regulars, or at least a temporary fixture of sorts, also observed or speculated upon. I’m still thinking about that Judith Butler essay on How to lead a good life within a bad life… ha just come and live in Brunswick park!
I have thought of The Bower as an intimate, habitable space, and as a pavilion or folly. I have used it as edifice to understand the built thing and what it does to itself, us and the park. It seems to reduce all the issues of a very large building into one small thing – inside, outside and through can all happen very quickly. And it’s built as if it’s indestructible. Its history is a puzzle to some and a source of anger to others. A conundrum. Waste and loss are central to life, both help us to understand ourselves – thinking about waste and regeneration has been important – Bataille’s idea of man’s first prison being his own form, then architecture, then society. In order to escape the body, people lost their minds, etc etc.
Everything about the current architecture of the building lets the park in - the windows, the glass in the doors. Of course, this would not have always been the case, the windows would probably have been opaque and there may not have been doors, like part of the park with a lid on it. I am drawn to these thresholds and how my work might engage with this. I have also been reading The Order of Time, by Carlo Rovelli, and reassessing linear time in relation to park time; time doesn’t exist, only events “even the things that are most thing-like are nothing more than long events”. Everyone’s being made to become a performer in some way (social media, the internet, the anthropocene) – I’m thinking of all the things that happen in the park as performative action.
This is taking too long(!) and I need to get on with everything else – not least the editing. I wanted to say something about how youtube, smart phones, etc have changed relationships to video. There is more to say on this about process and abstraction etc. Also I am meeting with Link Age Southwark this week...
Bye for now
P.S. could this be a press release?
P.P.S. could we end it with a joke like some of our previous emails when we were trying to think of jokes in relation to the Knock Knock exhibition at South London Gallery? Perhaps we should also mention that they are showing the Horse Impressionists in this group show from the 22nd Sept to 18 Nov.