Sonia Boyce and Helen Johnson at the Institute of Contemporary Art
From 1st February to 16th April, the Institute of Contemporary Art are displaying works from acclaimed artists Sonia Boyce and Helen Johnson. Through different mediums, both artists present a bold exploration of power structures.
Boyce’s We Move In Her Way is a multimedia presentation of the moving form. Dancers in her installation make childish and playful movements – many of them are masked or wearing tight silver spandex and spontaneously break out into fervent clapping. The videos are on loop in two separate rooms, with each screen displaying a specific area of the stage, which requires the viewer to actively move around to experience each aspect of Boyce’s piece. It’s odd, but also highly interactive. The work is actually a documentation of an initial live performance, where the audience could participate alongside the performers and follow an improvised pattern free from constraint.
Johnson’s Warm Ties is an exploration of contemporary Australian identity – particularly their relationship with British colonialism. Made in collaboration with Artspace, Sydney, the Melbourne-based artist portrays complex identity politics through the medium of painting. The old sensibilities of British Australia are contrasted with depictions of crude elements of modern Australia. 19th-century men in top hats and refined dress are juxtaposed with a feminine figure using her camera phone, for instance.
But Warm Ties doesn’t limit itself to the obvious comparisons. Johnson attempts to highlight, and potentially mock, efforts to conjure a modern identity. In one piece, she reprints in its entirety an article by the Sydney Morning Herald regarding Immigration Minister Peter Dutton’s “calls for a pro-Christmas uprising” and his rally against political correctness. In another painting, a man visibly pleasures himself whilst the lyrics of the country’s national anthem are sung into his ear. Johnson uses large theatre backdrop-sized canvases for her paintings, which veer into almost appearing like a modern Australian medieval-inspired tapestry, chronicling the history of a “young-ish” nation.
Both Boyce and Johnson are known for articulating political messages in their work. The former often focuses on improvised collaborative pieces that examine gender and issues concerning the Black British community. Johnson explores Australian identity and doesn’t shy away from addressing some of the uglier aspects of the country’s history and its development of a contemporary spirit. Although hailing from different sides of the globe, both artists and their exhibitions ultimately explore power dynamics and invite the audience to reflect on the internal mechanics that come into play.
Photos: Kimberley Archer
Sonia Boyce: We Move In Her Way and Helen Johnson: Warm Ties are at the Institute of Contemporary Art from 1st February until 16th April 2017, for further information, visit here.
For further information about Sonia Boyce visit here.
For further information about Helen Johnson visit here.