A Secret Service: Art, Compulsion, Concealment


Hayward Gallery Touring Exhibition in collaboration with the Hatton Gallery, Newcastle University.

L-R: Tehching Hsieh, 'One Year Performance 1980-1981', 1981; Mike Nelson, 'AMNESIAC SHRINE or Monumental Skulpture to Publyck Mourning', 2006 (installation view, Hatton Gallery); Joachim Koester and Adrian Dannatt, 'The PAN Museum', 2006 (installation view, De La Warr Pavilion)

This exhibition included 15 artists and groups whose practices centre on the construction of secret worlds. Their ontological vision is deeply subjective, often hermetic and coded, exploring the spaces between psychological compulsion and philosophical expression. The primary relationship in these works is between the artist and the act of creation; their works are resistant to interpretation, stubborn, and intriguing, and map the strange possibilities of imaginative expression. The exhibition has particular reference to Kurt Schwitters, whose final architectural construction, the Merzbarn, created in the Lake District, is now permanently installed in the Hatton Gallery.

We normally consider art and art practice in relation to its audience, and often articulate its processes in terms of the act of revealing and making visible for another person - the viewer. However there are many other approaches, where the participation of the viewer is not a primary concern, where the artist's gaze is turned inwards. The awkward and resistant qualities of these intense, introverted practices take on a new interest and resonance in the context of the current preoccupation with access and the audience as consumer. When social concerns emerge in such works, they are often expressed in terms of the utopian, the visionary, the counterfactual (Darger, Lincoln), alternatively the artists may seek connections to the hidden areas of the polity and society articulated in terms of conspiracy, secrecy, paranoia (Lombardi, Calle). Sometimes these practices may seem to leave the world of art behind and venture into psycho-pathology, but it is the refusal of normal boundaries and their definition that gives them much of their power.

Artists: Sophie Calle, Roberto Cuoghi, Henry Darger, Gedewon, Susan Hiller, Tehching Hsieh, Katarina Josefowicz, Joachim Koester with Adrian Dannatt, Paul-Etienne Lincoln, Mark Lombardi, Mike Nelson, Kurt Schwitters, The Speculative Archive, Jeffrey Vallance, Oscar Voll.

Catalogue essay: 'In A Secret Service'


18th Sept - 11th Nov 2006 Hatton Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne

27 Jan - 15 Apr 2007 De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill

5 May - 5 Aug 2007 The Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester