What happens when artworks are given a voice? Experimental art writer Maria Fusco (b. 1972) explores an imaginative world between language, silence and space in this display of nine masterworks from Spains leading collection of contemporary art.
Invited by Whitechapel Gallery
to select works from la Caixa Collection of Contemporary Art and write an accompanying work of fiction, Fusco presents film, photography and sculpture by influential British painter Alan Charlton (b. 1948, UK), pioneering Spanish performance artist Esther Ferrer (b. 1937, Spain) and internationally-renowned artist Cindy Sherman (b. 1954, US). Her new short story NINE QWERTY BELLS. Fiction for Live Voice (2019) imagines the artworks speaking at a conference in distinctive voices. It is published in the exhibition catalogue and available to read in the gallery or to purchase.
Fusco was intrigued by themes of sound, muteness and the body she found in the collection and these are central to both the display and new text. Esther Ferrers silent film Astonishment, Disdain, Pain and So On (2013) portrays a range of intense emotions through gesture and expression. Nearby can be heard the clack clack of typewriter keys. Ignacio Uriartes (b. 1972, Germany) film The History of the Typewriter Recited by Michael Winslow (2009) presents Michael Winslow, an American actor with extraordinary vocal skills, recreating the sounds of 32 different typewriters using only his voice and two microphones to conjure an aural history of analogue writing.
Cindy Shermans Untitled #102 (1981) is a dramatically staged photographic self-portrait of a young woman poised on her haunches, here gazing inquisitively at the encounter between Ferrer and Uriartes protagonists. A concrete arch by Cristina Iglesias (b. 1956, Spain) provides an architectural portal into the displays exploration of language, silence and space, whilst Alan Charltons mute grey monochromes entitled Painting in Ten Parts (1990) are intended to articulate the white wall through seriality and repetition.
The display marks the second in a four-part series in which internationally acclaimed authors explore Spains leading collection of contemporary art taking place over the course of a year. Founded in Barcelona in 1985, as the country emerged from a period of dictatorship, la Caixa was the first institutional Spanish collection to focus on postwar contemporary art, with an aim to foster dialogue between Spanish and international art. It now includes more than 1,000 works by international artists across the mediums of painting, sculpture, photography, installation and film.
Maria Fusco is an award winning interdisciplinary Belfast-born writer based in Glasgow. Her work is translated into ten languages and her latest books are Legend of the Necessary Dreamer (London: Vanguard Editions, 2017) described by Chris Kraus as a new classic of female philosophical fiction and Give Up Art: Collected Critical Writings (LA/Vancouver: New Documents, 2017). Her touring performance work ECZEMA! celebrates the 70th anniversary of the National Health Service and was commissioned by National Theatre Wales in 2018; it is published as an EP by Accidental Records. Master Rock is a repertoire for a mountain, commissioned by Artangel and BBC Radio 4 in 2015, the experimental radio play has been experienced by more than 2.5 million listeners. She was the inaugural writer-in-residence at Whitechapel Gallery (20092010) and is founder of The Happy Hypocrite, a journal for and about experimental writing. She is a Professor at Northumbria University, previously a Reader at University of Edinburgh and Director of Art Writing at Goldsmiths, University of London.