East Coast: Damn Braces: Bless Relaxes

Fran Cottell, A Meeting Outside Time, 1988, b/w photograph, Photo: Karen Melvin, Courtesy the artist

By Helen Kaplinsky

Whitechapel Gallery 
10 December 2013–9 March 2014

TOUR: mima
11 April–27 June 2014

This exhibition focuses on the landscape, mediated by technology and interlaced with the history of art-schools on the East-coast of England.

From the early Norwich Society of Artists (1803-1833), to the progressive Time Based Arts Course at Humberside College of Art in Hull during the 1990s, artists and their students have spoken through their local landscape. Encompassing responses to new technologies and their effect on the landscape one can see a reactionary nostalgia for the rural idyll, visionary prospect in the ports of commerce and playful reverie for the information super-highways.

Over two centuries artists have depicted an English landscape under threat, divided by landowners and industry in the nineteenth century and privatisation during the Thatcher era. Their response makes a case for freedom of movement through use of medieval common land law and more recently open source ‘creative common’ culture online. The artist in both eras is the quintessential Libertarian Romantic, seeking to banish control over territories on and offline. Landscapes are coded, their usage of symbolic and actual ownership traced by walls and paths. These artists taught their students to be both the entrepreneur and the marauder, be led by desire to move through landscape without regard for existing codes.

The works in this show trace both official and unofficial paths. The exhibition focusses on the landscapes of Humberside, Northumbria, Norfolk and Lincolnshire alongside archive material from the Bristol Live Art Archive, relating to Hull Time Based Arts. Important early net art works by Heath Bunting and Simon Poulter and performance by Fran Cottell will be revisited and reanimated in collaboration with students from Hull College of Art and Design.


Contemporary Art Society displays at Whitechapel Gallery: East Coast – Helen Kaplinsky from Contemporary Art Society on Vimeo.

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