In the Book of Genesis, Lot’s Wife was petrified – physically transformed into a ‘pillar of salt’ – in the course of an instant of disobedience. In that momentary transgression, she lost her humanness. But her physical substitution made her immortal as a symbol, ironically perpetuating her identity even as it eclipsed it. The Bible does not tell us her individual human name but the mysterious symbol she became is identified by that prior role
The works in this exhibition take familiar objects or materials and through a variety of ministrations make them into something new which, crucially, retains a vestige of their former identity. They lose any former functionality and cease to have a functioning name that operates as a signifier, so that we no longer ‘know what they are’. Like Lot’s Wife, the exact process and purpose of the transformation is shrouded in mystery, but elevates the original components to a new status.
Some of the works utilise the actual substance of the original objects, rearranging their structures along collage lines, such as Julie Cockburn’s transformed paintings and Elaine Breen’s sculptures. Others substitute the original ‘body’ for another material: Daphne Wright’s subtle new clay works, exhibited here for the first time, seem to hover midway between states – usurping or memorialising the objects they are based on?
Roger Hiorns’ minimal geometric panels are given a kind of totemic power by the knowledge that they are made with real brain matter, whilst Bouke de Vries’ Memory Vase is its own memorial and uncanny double.
Richard Box’s transformed household appliances mock their original functions whilst also drawing attention to the magic and transformative qualities of those functions. Tom Badley genetically manipulates musical scores and a host of found audiovisual material, and Doug Clark’s specially commissioned outdoor sculpture manipulates a more abstract symbol of faith and progress.
The exhibition includes interactive works and is accompanied by a panel discussion on the opening night: ‘Readymade and (mis)representation – the life of objects in art today’, as well as children’s workshops exploring the transgressive idea of breaking and altering an object made by someone else.