Over the past thirty years Victor Burgins work has established him as both a highly influential artist and a renowned theorist of the still and moving image. After thirteen years in the United States, Burgin recently returned to live and work in Britain.
Burgin came to prominence as an originator of conceptual art, and was nominated for the Turner Prize shortly before his departure for the USA. This monographic exhibition - his first in a UK art gallery since 1986 - offers a critical overview of a body of work that combines conceptual rigour with poetic elegance, and remains an essential reference for succeeding generations of artists.
Through its formal originality and exploration of digital image technologies Burgins work continues to make an important contribution to contemporary artistic practice, just as his theoretical work has engendered continuing critical debates around issues of still and moving images. Burgin returned to London last Autumn to take up the prestigious post of Millard Professor of Fine Art at Goldsmiths College, making this exhibition particularly timely.
Listen to Britain is a new work made especially for this exhibition. It was inspired by Burgins experience of returning to Britain in the immediate aftermath of September 11. He was prompted to recall Humphrey Jennings 1941 short film, Listen to Britain, and to associate it with a scene from Powell and Pressburgers 1944 film A Canterbury Tale. Jennings film was made when Britain was at risk of invasion, but while the threat of violence was everywhere, it appeared nowhere. In A Canterbury Tale, a rural idyll in time of war, a young woman on the Downs hears ancient sounds of pipes and lutes on the wind - sounds from a shared past that haunts the hill.
US77 is one of Burgins signature black and white photo text works from the late 70s, combining documentary style photographic imagery with texts in the manner of glossy magazines. US77 considers the construction of the subject in a patriarchal and media-dominated society. The show also includes three works from Tales from Freud, a series of five related photo-text works from the early 1980s, which made explicit Burgins interest in psychoanalysis and extended Burgins ever-widening range of references to include such themes as fetishism and voyeurism.
Love Stories #2 (1996) is an installation which exploits the elements of sound and movement and their inverse silence and fixity. Three monitors show loops of anonymous individuals in slow motion. The footage is interspersed with screens filled with colour accompanied by fragments of Hollywood movie soundtracks spoken by female protagonists, continuing Burgins investigation of the psychosexual construction of the subject.
Arnolfini is publishing a book with August Media entitled Relocating: Victor Burgin to accompany the exhibition. Approximately 200 pages and designed by Lucy or Robert, this full-colour volume includes commissioned texts by Stephen Bann, Victor Burgin, Peter Osborne, Françoise Parfait and Catsou Roberts. The book is distributed by Birkhäuser and is available from Norwich Gallery during the period of the exhibtion ISBN 1-902854-19-5.
Listen to Britain is a touring exhibtion curated by Arnolfini, Bristol.