Saturday 16 April to Sunday 29 May 2011
Opening: Friday 15 April, 6.30 – 8.30 pm
Film screening and Q&A with the artists: Saturday 16 April 2.30 pm
Cubitt Gallery presents the first UK solo exhibition by Swiss artists Christina Hemauer and Roman Keller. Through video, sculptural-recreation, text and archive material the artists explore two short-lived experiments with solar energy, both marking points of change or crisis in the history of oil consumption.
Sun of 1913 (2009) looks back to the first commercial-scale solar power plant, built in 1913, in Egypt under British mandate, by American engineer Frank Shuman. For a short period solar was the most economical form of power generation, cheaper than shipping coal from Britain. However, the plant ceased operation after one year, when at the onset of World War 1 the British Government began mass-scale crude oil production in Iran, precipitating a widespread turn to oil. The fate of Shuman’s solar plant is told through a narrative written with Egyptian writer Wageh George. A video projection shows two segments of the plant being reconstructed in Cairo by the artists and craftsmen.
A Curiosity, a Museum Piece and an Example of a Road not Taken (2006-2007) investigates former American president Jimmy Carter’s pioneering but ultimately futile energy programme. It culminated in his symbolic solar installation on the White House roof during the 1979 energy crisis, which was removed by the Ronald Regan administration. At Cubitt, Hemauer and Keller focus on the solar installation at the point of greatest potential: its design, construction and ceremonial launch. Archive contact sheets show the panels being installed. Carter’s speech inaugurating them – calling America to break its addiction to imported oil – can be read from a sculptural recreation of a presidential lectern.
Using re-creation and re-enactment to revitalise the optimism of these pioneering projects, Hemauer and Keller also highlight the time that has since lapsed; that these were “roads not taken”. They revisit episodes in the history of oil and solar energy to ask questions about the present energy situation: increased dependence on, and continued conflict over, fossil fuels. Since 2003 the focus of their research-based practice has been the concept of energy as a defining force of modern society, including works and performances that herald the post-petroleum age and map the relationship between the history of energy and modern art.
Christina Hemauer (born 1973 Zurich, Switzerland) and Roman Keller (born 1969 Liestal, Switzerland) live in Zurich, Switzerland. Recent exhibitions include United Alternative Energies, Centre for Contemporary Art, Aarhus, Denmark, curated by Latitudes (2011) and the 11th Cairo International Biennale, Cairo (2009).
Spaghetti Junctions is generously supported by the Arts Council England, Outset Contemporary Art Fund, Pro Helvetia, Solar UK, The Zabludowicz Collection and Matt’s Gallery.
Film screening with artists Q&A – Saturday 16 April, 2.30 pm
A Road Not Taken (2010), 66 mins
This will be the UK premier of Hemauer and Keller’s documentary road trip film A Road Not Taken (2010). The film is structured around the conceptual act of finding and donating two of Carter’s solar panels to American history museums as the “museum pieces” he warned they might become. Through interviews (including with Carter) and archive footage the film investigates Carter’s energy programme in the context of his foreign policy on Iran during the 1979 oil crisis.
Curators’ Choice print portfolio 2010
For images or to arrange a viewing, please follow this link: http://cubittartists.org.uk/
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