In the Shadow of Forward Motion @ Zabludowicz Collection

Installation views of Zabludowicz Collection Invites: Ollie Dook
Installation views of Zabludowicz Collection Invites: Ollie Dook

Two weeks ago I headed over to the Zabludowicz Collection in Kentish Town for the opening of a collaborative showcase by postgraduate students from three different MA courses: MA Culture, Criticism and Curation at Central St Martins; MA Curating and Collections at Chelsea College of Art; and MA Film Programming and Curating at Birkbeck.

With six curators from various international backgrounds contextualising the collection, we get to witness their visions come together in this dense but wonderfully researched show. Twelve works have been selected, ranging from multimedia pieces to smaller photographs and video works, each predating the year 2001. The show seeks to question how we relate to vulnerability and what underpins it on both a physical and emotional level (as introduced by Judith Butler in her 2014 lecture ‘Rethinking Vulnerability and Resistance’), by using 2001 as a historical turning point of and looking backwards from there.

Installation views of In the Shadow of Forward Motion. Testing Ground at Zabludowicz Collection
Installation views of In the Shadow of Forward Motion. Testing Ground at Zabludowicz Collection

The immediate sensation when entering the former methodist chapel is one of unease and disorientation: Heidi Bucher’s room skin (Parquet, Room nr. 25) drapes across the floor of the main space, creating a bizarre corporeal altar leading up to the only non-Zabludowicz artwork in the exhibition, Two Faced Cunt by Jake and Dinos Chapman, which takes centre stage and echoes the display adopted by the ICA in 1996, creating a kind of hallucinatory micro Garden of Eden.

Installation views of In the Shadow of Forward Motion. Testing Ground at Zabludowicz Collection
Installation views of In the Shadow of Forward Motion. Testing Ground at Zabludowicz Collection

Upstairs on the mezzanine level, Mat Collishaw’s massive slide projection Crucifixion looms over the space alongside video works by Harold Offeh and another work by the Chapman brothers, but it is the video works that really stand out in this exhibition. My favourite amongst them are the two tucked away in each corner of the room. The first is Barbara Hammer’s Snowjob: The Media Hysteria of AIDS. Screened in Miami Art Basel in 2015, this provocative video montage examines the public and media ignorance of AIDS and HIV in 80’s America.

Installation views of In the Shadow of Forward Motion. Testing Ground at Zabludowicz Collection
Installation views of In the Shadow of Forward Motion. Testing Ground at Zabludowicz Collection

The second is a recording of David Wojnarowicz’s In the Shadow of Forward Motion from which the exhibition takes its title, a multimedia performance piece created in collaboration with Ben Neill. Wojnarowicz’s words play over a sinister sounding composition by Neill, taking us on a sensory journey. Wojnarowicz spent much of his career creating work that focused on trying to survive and simultaneously escape the antagonistic society created by the AIDS crisis.

One of the curators from the Central Saint Martins course, Marco Galvan, explained to me that “The choice of the title came after having thoroughly researched around the work by David Wojnarowicz. We liked that after seeing this succession of impacting images, integrating music, text, and video in a multi-dimensional format, and embodying the act of acceleration and its sensory manifestations, we all had this shared sense of exposure. We thought it was great as it specifically connects to the concept of our exhibition. Moreover, the work is from 1989, it had this strong evocative capacity then and we think it still has it now.”

In the Shadow of Forward Motion is a great example of an exhibition that draws from the past but nevertheless positions itself in the present. Despite the breadth of the numerous heavy examples of vulnerability that the works bring up, including the marginalised LGBT community in the US during the eighties and the Bosnian conflict, the curators encourage us to think about how the pieces all convey the unsettled political distrust and aversion that is also evocative of 2019. I’ve found that exhibitions with multiple curators are sometimes at risk of abstracting ideas in a way that doesn’t allow people to access what it tries to deliver, but ITSOFOMO succeeds brilliantly.

In the Shadow of Forward Motion runs for 3 months, with screening by Harun Farocki and Christian von Borries on Saturday 23 February, 5pm at zabludowiczcollection.com

About Ksenya Blokhina

Hailing from Switzerland with Russian origins, Ksenya has lived in the UK for ten years. She has experience in the commercial art world as well as artists rights management. currently working as Copyright and Licensing officer at Art UK. Hailing from Switzerland with Russian origins, Ksenya has lived in the UK for ten years. Writing interests include exhibitions of contemporary art in London and post soviet archive and memory.