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IWM Contemporary: Jane and Louise Wilson
Showing now until 11 January 2015
Turner Prize nominated artists Jane and Louise Wilson are showing a significant new video installation at IWM London. Undead Sun has been commissioned to mark the Centenary of the First World War and offers a unique artistic perspective on this era-defining conflict.
During the First World War, the advent of aerial warfare and surveillance triggered rapid advances in optics and other technological innovation. Alongside these, new counter-measures in the arts of concealment and camouflage emerged. Alluding to the threat of exposure from above, Undead Sun explores ideas about technology and visibility. The film itself is shown within a specially constructed installation, in which the viewer’s own movement and lines of sight are deliberately restricted.
Much of the imagery in the film is inspired by the visual culture of the period. Many sequences are based on the artists’ extensive research in the IWM (Imperial War Museum) archives and reflect on the reconstruction of narratives surrounding the war. Uneasy, dream-like sequences are acted out against the ominous backdrop of a giant wind tunnel. Staged vignettes offer glimpses of individual, human-scale dramas, as well as intimations of the darker side of the society of the time. The tunnel itself evokes larger-than-life forces at work, suggesting the relentless and cyclical drive of events. The rotating wooden blades of a fan return us to themes of the aerial and the air, but also hint at the visceral, elemental forces that the war unleashed, the terror of gas attacks, the violence of speed and social transformation.
This is the first iteration of an unfolding project, commissioned by Film and Video Umbrella, for IWM in partnership with mima, Middlesbrough and Wolverhampton Art Gallery for the Centenary of the First World War.
About Jane and Louise Wilson
Turner Prize nominated artists Jane and Louise Wilson have been working together since 1989 and have consistently exhibited since then at major international galleries. Solo international exhibitions include ‘Tempo Suspenso’ at Cam Gulbenkian in Lisbon, Portugal and ‘Unfolding the Aryan Papers’ at CGAC Santiago de Compostela in Spain and at 303 Gallery in New York. Their work was also recently included in the Stanley Kubrick retrospective at LACMA Los Angeles.
Within the UK, they have recently had a solo show at Paradise Row in London, following solo exhibitions of new work commissioned by Forma which toured between The Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester, DCA in Dundee and John Hansard Gallery in Southampton. Their most recent film work, The Toxic Camera, was premiered at The Whitworth Art Gallery and has subsequently been selected for numerous international film festivals.
Jane and Louise Wilson have always made ambitious works, principally working with film, video and photography.
The current exhibition is supported using public funding by Arts Council England. With special thanks to Artliner.
Jane and Louise Wilson explain the background to Undead Sun
We are intrigued by the technology and architecture of war and this commission has been a great opportunity for us to develop this further. We began our research in the IWM archive by looking at an account of a First World War cameraman and the advancement of documentary reportage from the First World War, so the motif of the camera was there from very early on. This led us to thinking about the development of aerial photography. In many ways it's very much an abstraction. This abstraction is continued further through the architecture of the Farnborough wind tunnels, where we filmed, and through the use of animated archive film, recording the air flow and pressure experiments conducted there, leading to modern aviation. We began to investigate the development of camouflage through the use of decoys, which became a significant part of the work.
Another strong influence on our project has been Tom McCarthy’s beautifully written novel C.It's a book about flight written recently, but about the First World War, and this perspective of distance is something that's very important to our approach. The visual motif of the wind tunnel echoes this, especially in the context of Walter Benjamin’s essay ‘The Angel of History’, which has also shaped our thinking. From this point of view, to show Undead Sun at IWM at this particular historical moment is especially resonant.
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