Brexit, social, civic and national identity, displacement and belonging – just some of the themes which will be explored by 2006 Turner Prize nominee Mark Titchner at Firstsite this summer
Through a range of new and existing work, Mark Titchner explores the tensions between the different belief systems that inform our society, be they religious, scientific or political. He works with a number of medias including digital print, wall drawing, video, sculpture, and often employs motifs taken from advertising, religious iconography, club flyers, trade union banners, psychedelia and political propaganda.
In Some questions about us, Mark will present a number of works exploring the relationship between the individual and others in connection with migration and national identity, including large-scale posters developed with asylum seekers and refugees in Manchester in 2017 (Listen to me, 2017), as well as a new wall drawing based on the Colchester coat of arms.
Mark says “I’m interested in how we relate to public messages, as they tend to have the same utopian language found in corporate manifestos, propaganda and devotional texts; veering between the disembodied and authoritarian and the personal and optimistic. At some point, these texts become a voice. I’m interested in how we relate to them. For example, there are prevalent ideas in our culture, promoted by these messages, which suggest there is a lack in our lives that we need to improve upon, or that we should aspire to be better than we are, rather than just being who we are. I therefore try to insert these same thoughts into public settings while offering the viewer space and ambiguity to interpret the message however they want. The point is that it’s not a didactic experience at all, they are free to think, “No, I don’t agree with that”.’
Visitors arriving at Firstsite will be greeted by a huge banner by the Firstsite cinema bearing the word IT on one side and US on the other – a work entitled Everything that I am not. Mark explains “It is a play on the ‘it’ part of Brex-it. ‘What is ‘it'? In the case of Brexit it seems like no one knows. The work also comes out of my work with asylum seekers—when you are a minority, ‘it’ becomes everything that you are not—a citizen, resident…it’s a dehumanising pronoun.“
Some questions about us – the new work that gives its name to the exhibition - grew out of Mark’s involvement with the Mental Health and Justice project, a multi-disciplinary research initiative. Mark has been working with the team that are investigating issues around the assessment of mental capacity particularly in relation to complex or contested cases. The work consists of ten mirrored placards fixed with wooden stakes (the same format as Estate Agent For Sale boards) each asking a question relating to autonomy and the freedom to make decisions for oneself and how this relates to mental capacity and the law. Coinciding with the exhibition, a version of the work will be installed on the public boundary of the Royal Bethlem, London, the world’s oldest running psychiatric hospital.
New work IN OUR INFINITE IGNORANCE WE ARE ALL EQUAL (2019) a wall drawing, features the reimagined Colchester coat of arms. Mark explains “My wall drawings always begin with the text, in this case the writings of philosopher Karl Popper whose work was focused on the philosophy of science and the idea that as we discover more about the universe the amount that we don't know increases also. The backgrounds for the text are normally composed of overlaid elements which whilst present obscure each other creating a kind of visual noise - in this case I’ve used the kind of Morris-esque floral elements, that are found in equal measure on trade union banners and Liberty wallpaper, and the Colchester coat of arms. Whilst the coat of arms is obscured and abstracted, I wanted to include it as a compositional element tying the work to its site.”
Throughout the summer Mark will also be working with different community groups in Colchester to create works that will be displayed in vacant shops in the town centre from September/October 2019, supported by Colchester BID.
Sally Shaw, Firstsite Director says “We are thrilled to welcome Mark to Firstsite for an exhibition that addresses very real issues facing society today, but in a fun and inclusive way. We hope the show encourages visitors to think about power, authority, apathy, identity and building community. We are also extremely excited to announce that Mark’s work will continue throughout the town centre through a new partnership with the Colchester BID.”
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