1. Existing in thought or as an idea but not having a physical or concrete existence.
2. Dealing with ideas rather than events.
3. Not based on a particular instance; theoretical.
4. Denoting an idea, quality, or state rather than a concrete object.
5. Relating to or denoting art that does not attempt to represent external reality, but rather seeks to achieve its effect using shapes, colors, and textures: abstract pictures.
Works of art can fully embody the promesse du bonheur only when they have been uprooted from their native soil and have set out along the path to their own destruction. The procedure which today relegates every work of art to the museum is irreversible. It is not solely reprehensible, however, for it presages a situation in which art, having completed its estrangement from human ends, returns to life.
(Theodor W. Adorno, Valéry Proust Museum)
1. An upright, cupboard like repository with shelves, drawers, or compartments for the safekeeping or display of objects.
2. The box that houses the main components of a computer, such as the central processing unit, disk drives, and expansion slots.
3. A body of persons appointed by a head of state or a prime minister to head the executive departments of the government and to act as official advisers.
4. A small or private room set aside for a specific activity.
It was Dorner who, in the 1920s, invited Lissitzky to Hannover, Germany, to develop a dynamic display for what he called the “museum on the move.” Having defined the museum as a kraftwerk, he reconfigured the pseudoneutral spaces prevalent at the time with curatorial ideas that seem totally up-to-date even today. On several occasions, he spoke or wrote about the museum as a space of flux or permanent transformation, oscillating between object and process. (“The idea of process has penetrated our system of certainties.”) He envisioned a museum with multiple identities, active, never holding back – in short, pioneering. He talked of the museum as a relative (not an absolute) truth, and contextualized this radical museum within a similarly dynamic concept of art history. He dreamed of the “elastic museum” i.e. flexible displays within an adaptable building.
We occasionally sense that these works were not after all intended to end up between these morose walls, for the pleasure of Sunday strollers or Monday ‘intellectuals’. We are aware that something has been lost and that this meditative necropolis is not the true milieu of art – that so many joys and sorrows, so much anger, and so many labours were not destined one day to reflect the museum’s mournful light. The museum kills the vehemence of painting. It is the historicity of death.
(Merleau-Ponty, Indirect Language and the Voices of Silence)
Abstract Cabinet is a project created with Nicolas Deshayes, Adham Faramawy, Anthea Hamilton, Celia Hempton, George Henry Longly, and Prem Sahib, curated by Vincent Honoré and Nicoletta Lambertucci.
Abstract Cabinet brings together six London-based artists that in the past few years have been actively operating together through exchange, discussion, and sometimes collaboration. For the first time these artists are exhibited together to investigate whether a dynamic relationship could be a potential movement. The exhibition resists an historicisation of this group, and it asks: is this context strong enough to be an art movement? But can art movements still be relevant? And if so, how might an art institution react to one?
The format of the cabinet, despite its apparent obsolescence, opens up a range of possibilities, and allows the artists to freely transform the exhibition space into a studio and a paradoxical living room with daybeds that are used as plinths, mood board, curtains, candles, and hooks.
George Henry Longly has created the daybeds especially for this project.
PREM SAHIB on ADHAM FARAMAWY
My most intimate experience of Adham’s work occurred at my desktop when I downloaded his piece Total Flex 2 from Legion-tv.com and found myself enjoying the company of a naked man exercising on my screen. Occasionally this man would disappear, only to resurface again, surprising me with his metallic presence. At other times we’d play more directly; once, I grabbed him and put him in a Beyoncé video. I sent a screen shot to Adham, as did many other cohabiters of this work, and eventually he became viral.
The ubiquity of this downloadable man, his continued endurance and exertion through exercise, became increasingly emotive the longer I spent with him. He had the capacity to blend and exist within different interfaces. This made me wonder how long he would last. Would he outlive the ‘updates’, or someday exist as a newer version – perhaps older and performing different moves?
I found the energy with which he pursued his programmed task (in the here and now of the screen), synonymous with Adham’s work. There is a distinct and unashamed directness about Adham’s handling of the ‘current’ and its implicated technologies. I personally like how the work avoids being self-conscious about this and instead utilises nowness both as position and material.
ADHAM FARAMAWY on ANTHEA HAMILTON
I recently read Chaikamatsu Monazaemon’s comment that art is something which lies in the slender margin between the real and unreal. He was talking about Kabuki actors, suggesting that they should favour the imitation of real characters over fictitious ones. This connection between representation, the image, and ‘the real thing’ is key to how I approach Anthea’s works.
Often I’ve felt that, in engaging with Anthea’s installations, I’m being asked to deal with an idiosyncratic system of material choices and image associations. A sculpture comprised of a cut-out of a muscular, young Karl Largerfeld and a small pile of dried beans can be placed in the gallery in such a way that the object flattens, merging with the other assemblages in the room. The installation becomes a tableau. There have been times when this moment is like a ‘magic eye’ print and the installation shimmers between physical presence and allegorical representation.
ANTHEA HAMILTON on NICOLAS DESHAYES
18 May 2013
Of the group I know you a little less than the others. With Adham, I could discuss working together on Shama Khanna’s Flatness programme for the Oberhausen Short Film Festival last month (I’ve known him the longest). Had I to do this with Prem, we could discuss growing up in the ethnic ghettos of Greater London, or Disco (I could try and keep up at least). With George – I’m not sure, something about Paris and residencies. With Celia, that she comes from the same place as where some of my older sisters live, the current and future brilliance of Alex Padfield (and shared territory we never mention: using sexualised imagery of men in our work and being women in a gay world – too reductive…)
But with you, I know the work first and look to what you do formally and professionally, and it makes me have to (obviously too personally and literally) respond to say that the surface your works simulate remind me of the yoghurts my father ate when he was very sick. The cold rich dairy of Greek yoghurt, with synthetic strawberry compote at the bottom, a foil peel-off lid and a teaspoon – bed-bound appreciation.
After this show, I’m sure we’ll have much chattier stuff to share. As I finish now, I remember a rich woman with a full-length fur coat at your and George’s Vanille show at Valentin in Paris last January; you tried it on. Looked good.
NICOLAS DESHAYES on GEORGE HENRY LONGLY
GEORGE HENRY LONGLY on CELIA HEMPTON
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CELIA HEMPTON on PREM SAHIB
When I first met Prem’s work, I responded to formal and surface characteristics, seduced by its immaculate and contained precision. Then, as I got to know him, I began to learn so much more about a way of making art that is alien to mine. I am very impulsive; I look, and then I do – and think usually at the same split second. But Prem’s meticulous attention to detail and his relentless analysing of things before he does them (as well as during and after) typifies his work and approach – deliberating for what seems like days and weeks over minute changes in colour and form. I think this makes the work fizz or feel full of something that is about to come out but doesn’t, a tension and electric static charge, like when you are in the presence of someone you want to have sex with and they want to with you, but you can’t because circumstances in that moment prevent you from it.
The work appears stand-offish to me to begin with, but then it reveals itself eventually. Sometimes slowly and sensually, sometimes aggressively. Objects are poised perfectly – a black glass neon shape near the ceiling positioned behind and above you, something you might not notice straightaway but which you catch sight of as you leave a room; or the hard, white-and-black, upright protrusions from the wall that, though architectural, designed, and frozen-seeming, have such a human and tactile presence, glowing and breathing from behind. Incidentally, I have always found repression to be sexy. I think it’s something to do with the idea of an impending explosion of what has been built up.