The ways in which we position ourselves within capitalist modes of production often determines how we construct our identities under the pressure of historical and contemporary commodifications. The subtle gestures of the self, through the rich prism of gender performativity, materiality and the synthesis of cultural capital were all embedded within Man’s not Ready by Simeon Barclay at STCFTHOTS in Leeds. The exhibition presented a re-appropriation of the objects, advertisements and commodifications we so readily accept and are influenced by in day-to-day life.
Upon arrival at the gallery the visitor was confronted by a white cube exhibition space, in which ten artworks were placed facing one another in what felt like an immaterial dialogue. It was immediately clear that the exhibition provided a unique meditation on the navigation of our identities within popular cultural production. Traces of re-appropriation were constant throughout, from the Picasso postcard to the gestures of smoking and fashion subjectivity. Parallels between synthetic and ‘authentic’ governed the artworks in Man’s Not Ready.
Works spanned across mediums of sculpture, painting and installation, and each piece referred to different facets of not only our emotions, desires and anxieties, but also the prisms in which they exist. Works subverted dominant sections of our social relationships in individual subjects, which reflected local cultures and global attitudes. By restating our visceral engagements with not only the artworks, but also environment, Barclay interwove the two strands of contemporary culture and individualism with recognisable images, textures and texts.
There were two interplays present within Man’s Not Ready; the synthesised modalities of culture and the visceral, and the interplay between the emotive and subjective self. The works’ embodiment of these discourses made paramount the complexity of consumerism and the construction of identity. In suggesting a new, alternative reality to exist within, Man’s Not Ready re-articulated the different realms in which our identities are pushed to uncomfortable boundaries, and therefore asked us to query the infrastructures of culture, and the manifestations of self within it. It was through these works and the linguistic syntaxes at play, that these divisions were bought to the forefront of our relationships to the artworks. As seen in ‘House of St Pierre’ (2015) where vinyl letters hint towards a sense of placement, a sense of home.
Through its complex mediums and rich territory of artworks, Man’s Not Ready prompted the viewer to reposition themselves within the prism of art. Not only as a meditation upon the external modalities but in relation to our objective, and subject self. As the title seemingly suggested, perhaps we are not ready for the new prisms the art world irrefutably asks us to operate within, or perhaps our existential and philosophical approaches can be re-invented through the trajectory of art. In fact, we could see this mixture of mediums as a archive of the different constraints and infrastructures which surround us, and each artwork can be taken as a new angle, a new appropriation of the material and consumerist world.
Hatty Nestor is a writer currently based in Leeds and London.
Upcoming projects at STCFTHOTS can be found here.
Top Image: Man’s Not Ready, installation view. Courtesy STCFTHOTS. Photograph: Harry Meadley.