Late Barbarians

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After Image (Portrait of a Gentleman), 2010 © Images courtesy the artist and Andréhn-Schiptjenko.
Late Barbarians
Curated by: Robert Leckie

155 Vauxhall Street
London SE11 5RH
United Kingdom
January 23rd, 2014 - March 9th, 2014
Opening: January 23rd, 2014 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM

+44 (0)20 7587 5202
Wed-Sun 12-6; by appointment


24 January – 9 March 2014
Preview: Thursday 23 January, 6.30 – 8.30pm 


Juan Downey (1940–1993, Chile), Lili Dujourie (b.1941, Belgium), Sidsel Meineche Hansen (b.1981, Denmark), Matts Leiderstam (b.1956, Sweden) and Chris Marker (1921–2012, France)

Gasworks presents the group exhibition Late Barbarians, which includes video, photography and sculpture by Juan Downey, Lili Dujourie, Sidsel Meineche Hansen, Matts Leiderstam and Chris Marker.


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.[1] 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, which looks at the development of the tastes, manners and sensibilities of Western Europeans since the Middle Ages.

[1] 'In reality, we are all late barbarians' (1989) Interview with Helmut Hetzel. First published as ‘Norbert Elias: im Grunde sind wir alle späte Barbaren’, Die Welt, 11 December 1989. Translated from the German by Edmund Jephcott.


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