James Richards and Leslie Thornton with Horst Ademeit, Adelhyd van Bender, Bruce Conner, Emily Feather, Terence McCormack, Jeff Preiss and Jens Thornton
SPEED takes the form of two major new commissions by James Richards and Leslie Thornton, alongside a show-within-the-show convened by Richards with works by Horst Ademeit, Adelhyd van Bender, Bruce Conner, Emily Feather, Terence McCormack, Jeff Preiss and Jens Thornton.
In the making of SPEED, Richards and Thornton have been concerned with specific psychic and temporal states, rushes of interconnectedness and scientific wonder, as well as a sense of ecological dread and paranoia. The oscillation between an ordering impulse, and the relinquishing of control is a central feature of SPEED, one that returns in the exhibitions’ different modes: cinema screening, video mural, reading room and group show.
Many of the works in the group exhibition were made against a backdrop of apprehension and self-destruction during the Cold War, with its at times uncanny resonances with the present moment. The atmosphere contains an obsessive energy, a recurring fascination with rays, mind altering effects and rituals and the systematic sorting and recording of experience. It is sense of frantic repetition and labour, which van Bender described as ‘Divine Drudgery’, a spirit also present in Bruce Conner’s psychedelic inkblot drawings.
There is an impulse of collaboration that brought about SPEED, one that renders the monologue of anxious speculation into a dialogic practice. The exhibition comprises discrete and individual new works, from Richard’s large-scale video mural Phrasing to Thornton’s cinema installation Cut from Liquid to Snake, and yet all elements have been generated from the third mind of collaboration, a channeling of and at times conscious unsettling of each other’s sensitivities. The basic biographical contrasts between Richards and Thornton are apparent: gender, age and sexuality are all points of difference. What has drawn them together is an inclination they seem to share: that of grabbing charged material, and without apparent judgement or moralising, filling and emptying it. There is an attuned pitch for locating and unsettling any received and comfortable meaning. And at the same time, they produce works with a highly specific sense of the contemporary moment and the urgencies that it presents.
Curated by Fatima Hellberg and James Richards with Matt Fitts
Commissioned by Künstlerhaus Stuttgart and Malmö Konsthall
The second iteration of SPEED takes place at Malmö Konsthall, 15 March – 26 May 2019
Image credit: Anonymous staff artist, General Electric, 1964 on the occasion of Gunnar Thornton’s departure from the Nuclear Powered Airplane Project, which he directed from 1952 to 1964.
Realised with the generous support of Pedro Barbosa; Ministry of Science, Research and the Arts, Baden-Württemberg; Wüstenrot Stiftung; Ritter Sport; pbb Stiftung für Kunst und Wissenschaft and the British Council, Berlin.
With special thanks to Rodeo, Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi, Cabinet Gallery, Andrea Bellini, Centre d’art Contemporain Genève und CERN.