The Seven Billionth Citizen
From September 23 – 29, Townhouse is pleased to present a special week-long screening of “The Seven Billionth Citizen,” a collaborative video project featuring five international artists, devised and curated by John Gillett and Beth Harland. The project is a response to the announcement by the United Nations of the birth of the seven billionth citizen on 31 October 2011, which drew attention to pressing issues surrounding the rapid growth of the global population. Each of the five videos was made by a different artist (or pairs of artists) in each of the five major population zones of the world: the Americas, Europe, the Middle Eastern and North African region, sub-Saharan Africa, and Asia and Oceania. Each artist’s contribution follows an agreed formula, inspired by the nineteenth century landscape paintings of Caspar David Friedrich that show a lone figure, facing away from the viewer, and gazing upon a sublime landscape — a mainstay of the European romantic tradition. In each video, the lone figure has an hourglass, an acknowledgement of our urge to measure the unmeasurable. The project seeks to convey awe and tranquility, collectivity and isolation. It seeks to address the ambiguity of our era which the force of the UN announcement seems to hinge upon: the concern for the individual, in the face of overwhelming societal challenges.
The collaborating artists include: in Egypt, Ayman Ramadan, whose video work reflects the life of Cairo; in Kenya, James Muriuki, who customarily works with digital media, investigating transitions in contemporary society; in Japan, the photographer Naoya Hatakeyama, who has most recently engaged in documenting the effects of the tsunami last year which destroyed his hometown of Rikuzentakata; in Brazil, the printmaker and video artist Maria Lucia Cattani, whose work habitually engages repetition to reveal unseen pattern, and Nick Rands, who works in a variety of media to understand the relationship between human scale and the planet; and in the UK, John Gillett, who is a curator and digital media artist interested in the ambition of scale which the digital makes possible, and Beth Harland, who works in painting and video and seeks the capture of duration in the moment, the sensing of time in the texture of the visual.
Gillett and Harland are both academics at Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton in the UK, and have worked with the University’s ESRC Centre for Population Change to develop the global video project as part of a wider multidisciplinary research collaboration.
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