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Gillian Wearing at London's Whitechapel Gallery

— March 2012

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Gillian Wearing Signs that say what you want them to say and not Signs that say what someone else wants you to say HELP, 1992-3 C-type print mounted on aluminium Dimensions variable © the artist Courtesy Maureen Paley, London

The Whitechapel Gallery presents the first international survey of Turner Prize-winning British artist Gillian Wearing’s photographs and films which explore the public and private lives of ordinary people.
Fascinated by how people present themselves in front of the camera in fly-on-the-wall documentaries and reality TV, Gillian Wearing explores ideas of personal identity through often masking her subjects and using theatre’s staging techniques. 
This major exhibition surveys Wearing’s work from the early photographs Signs that Say What You Want Them to Say and Not Signs that Say What Someone Else Wants You to Say (1992–3) to her most recent video, Bully (2010) and also includes several new photographs made specially for the Whitechapel Gallery exhibition.
Visitors to the exhibition will enter a film set-style installation showcasing photographs and films in ‘front and back stage’ areas. Highlights include a striking photograph of the artist posing as her younger self, Self-Portrait at 17 Years Old (2003), Dancing in Peckham (1994), a film which blurs the boundaries between public space and private expression as Wearing dances in the middle of a shopping mall, and the UK premiere of recent film Bully (2010). New photographic works shown for the first time include two portraits of Wearing as artists August Sander and Claude Cahun as part of her continuing series of iconic photographers, as well as still lives of flowers, looking back to the rich symbolism of the great age of 17th century Dutch painting.
A gallery is dedicated to Wearing’s well-known photographs giving people the chance to write what they were thinking at that moment, titled Signs that Say What You Want Them to Say and Not Signs that Say What Someone Else Wants You to Say (1992–3).  The series includes a city worker holding a sign saying, ‘I’m Desperate’, a policeman holding ‘Help!’ and another person’s sign ‘Will Britain ever get through this recession’.
The exhibition also includes a series of private viewing booths for three confessional videos shown together for the first time and in which Gillian Wearing asked people to describe intensely personal experiences. These include Trauma (2000) where sitters describe childhood traumas while wearing a mask. As well as the powerful videos Secrets and Lies (2000) and Confess All On Video. Don’t Worry, You Will Be In Disguise. Intrigued? Call Gillian... (1994). Alongside these works the video 2 into 1 (1997) sees a mother lip synching the voices of her twin sons and vice versa as they describe their relationship.

28 March – 17 June 2012, Galleries 1, 8 & Victor Petitgas Gallery (Gallery 9)

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