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In the First Circle. A Project by Imogen Stidworthy

Including work by around twenty artists, the exhibition explores the encounter, entanglement and transfer of meanings, the movement from one set of terms to another, as well as ideas of opacity and relational resistance.

Artists: Caroline Bergvall, James Coleman, Phil Collins, Jasper Coppes, Danica Dakić, Thierry De Cordier, Fernand Deligny, Werner Feiersinger, Andrea Fisher, Dominique Hurth, Christopher Knowles, Aglaia Konrad, Rashid Masharawi, Paul McCarthy, Asier Mendizabal, Rabih Mroué, Palle Nielsen, Willem Oorebeek, Bas Princen, Alejandra Riera, Salome Schmuki, Imogen Stidworthy, Antoni Tàpies, Matthew Tickle, Hajra Waheed, Bing Wang.

How do we read the voice to locate people socially, culturally and geographically? This question has brought us to the borders of language — language as it arises in the encounter between different terms of reference. Here spaces open up for language to rethink itself, sometimes in extremis. We trace the spaces of the voice, from the body, with its cavities and resonating chambers, to the schisms and transitions that produce culture and politics. The border condition is not an edge but a middle of things.

We take our title from a novel by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1968) in which a group of imprisoned Soviet scientists are set to work under the orders of Stalin to develop two speech-related devices. The production of ‘voice-prints’ will enable the KGB to identify the voices of suspect citizens on any wiretapped conversation, while a ‘voice scrambler’ on Stalin’s personal telephone will lock up his speech in nonsense. The novel is set in a sharashka, slang for the secret research laboratories of the gulag system and meaning a place to dawdle. In this space, transparency carries the assumption of knowledge – of the right and the power to know – but also implies the imposition of one system of thought over every other. Here opacity shrouds a malicious dictator, but also shelters a fragile freedom.

We are interested in the significance of ‘living with’ – the sense that arises from being ‘in the presence of’, by paying attention to the smallest differences. It is with that sense in mind that we have conceived of this exhibition and the works within it.

Paul Domela and Imogen Stidworthy

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