Installation. Posters and steel coated in silver powder paint, fluorescent tubes
Utopian/dystopian settings have been a common resource in the science fiction genre, employed by writers and filmmakers who speak of transformations, parallel worlds—either real or fictitious—in which societies have attained a high degree of optimism and perfection, or else of perversion and dehumanisation. Throughout his career Graham Gussin has revealed his fascination with science fiction and its territories, which he explores in works such as Beyond the Infinite (1994), Any Object in the Universe (1998), Dark Light Piece (Night of the Living Dead) Luminosity Wave Form (2002) and Shift (2004). Starting from literary and cinematographic references found in collective memory, the artist examines the plurality of meanings that emerge from the connections between the different codes stored in the works, their transpositions, contradictions and strategies of presentation and reception in an institutional framework.
News from Nowhere (2013) is an installation consisting of a steel structure that reproduces a news kiosk, coated in silver powder paint and illuminated by fluorescent tubes. Its title is taken from William Morris’s homonymous novel that foresees a future society, the egalitarian society that the author, linked to the first socialist movements of his day and age, considered ideal. The utopian tale, first published in the pages of the socialist review Commonweal in 1890, analyses the virtues of the system in chapters dedicated to challenge the notions of property, authorship, hierarchy, salaried work and rule, related to the capitalist production regime. It describes a perfect society imagined by Morris, using terms such as money, poverty and class that , in a future envisaged around the utopian idea of social justice , will have fallen into disuse.
The work by Graham Gussin is completed by eighteen posters displayed in the kiosk that the visitor can take home, another action that questions the economic transactions of capitalism and refers us back to the markets described in Morris’s novel, where the main character purchases goods without restriction and with no monetary exchange. The posters reproduce pictures taken or compiled by the artist over several years that evoke anonymous places of transit, non-places. They also contain collages inspired by titles and magazines and comics—Fortune, Discover, Prediction, New Mutants, Vertigo—that describe strange situations or transitory psychological states. The Headlines show discordant elements and superimposed readings that transport the viewer to a remote and indefinite time.
News from Nowhere condenses many of the concerns found in Graham Gussin’s oeuvre, such as the idea of the viewer as an unavoidable recipient, an active element in the construction and transformation of meanings. Transformed into a subject, the audience experiences dislocation that is characteristic of the change in spatio-temporal dimensions brought about by the artist. Both the literary reference and the pictures on the posters are resources that project the viewer towards an unknown place, a subjective and at once ideological space. By taking the posters away and thus expanding the project beyond the exhibition space the viewer becomes a witness of the breaking of the limits traditionally separating subject from object.
Movement is a recurring theme in the Gussin’s work , who understands such physical and mental movement as a trigger of meanings. In the News from Nowhere installation the artist preserves the dialectic narrative of the novel taking a passage from the story and creating a new semantic structure, with neither beginning nor ending, where meaning is afforded by individual experience and the encounter with the unknown. The true scale of the work (a space within the space) is a catalyst for the inclusion of the viewer, who occupies and moves around the environment repeating in real life the action of the character in the book. William Morris structures his novel as a circular stroll through London and the Thames, a return journey from Hammersmith to Bloomsbury throughout which the leading character and the reader are gradually introduced into the balanced society of the future, built on the memory of the ruins of the chaotic past (the present as history), reminiscences of a failed age that the artist repeatedly evokes in his reflection on the sublime. The narrative style is ambiguous and dialectical, continuously contrasting past and future, balance and disorder, reality and fiction. Such a relation of opposites forms the basis of Gussin’s discourse.
Agar Ledo 2014