Reopening: June 12, 2020. Advice for visitors

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Victor Burgin

Since the late-1960s Victor Burgin has made remarkable contributions both as a cultural theorist and as an artist working with photography and digital video. Over a period of more than thirty years his visual work and his writings have reflected upon spatial and temporal relationships.

He has consistently represented such abstractions as ’inside/outside’, ’here/there’, ’now/then’ in terms of everyday life: for example, the assertion of the self and the mistaking of the other in such social and political gestures as sexism, racism and other forms of discrimination and exclusion. He is equally interested in the pathological love that presents itself as the ’opposite’ of psychotic hatred. Burgin is particularly concerned with the space and time ’between’ that haunts and subverts all such binary thinking. It is this that has led to his engagement with psychoanalysis. For example, he draws upon the model of the daydream to construct the space-time of a place which is, ’not … a matter of perspective or geometry, but [of] the projection of psychical conditions into the external world.’ In exploring this area in writings and in images Burgin has resisted both academic abstraction and art-for-art’s-sake. Instead of essentialising, he brings a deconstructive gesture to the power play in which all such articulations are formed.

In his latest video projection works – ’unconscious panoramas’, as the architectural theorist Anthony Vidler has called them – Burgin narrates a present that is ’a product of the thinking and sensing subject as opposed to the universal and stable entity envisaged since the Enlightenment.’ It is the present of a space conceived of as an extension of the body, in Burgin’s words ’gesture rather than gaze.’ The projection work Elective Affinities (2000-2001), which Burgin produced especially for this exhibition, is based upon the artist’s experience of the space of the Mies van der Rohe pavilion in Barcelona. Here, Burgin says, he found himself in a place – which, as I believe this exhibition shows, is the place and time of all of his work – ’where my internal world and the social and historical reality of the city intersect.’