RIFKIN, Adrian; VISHMIDT, Marina; HUNT, Andrew
Let’s Take Back Our Space
Catalogue to the show at Focal Point Gallery, takes its title from an encyclopaedic photographic project by the German artist Marianne Wex. Over several years in the mid-1970s Wex, who had originally been a painter, built up an extraordinary archive of thousands of images of people, which she began to categorise according to their body language. Mixing her own street photographs with images clipped from newspapers and advertisements, she cumulatively catalogued the way that male and female identities were formed and reinforced through everyday gestures; the way, as she put it, that they ‘took up space’. Then she began to cast her net even wider, examining ancient and mediaeval sculpture for clues about the history of gendered poses. Finally, she began to ask volunteers to act out some of the most characteristic postures of both sexes for the camera. Wex combined the resulting photographs in dozens of large-scale panels, which were exhibited and also published as a book. Mixing documentary photography with collage, feminist polemic and art history, Wex sought to expose the sexual and social stereotypes that inform even our apparently most casual, personal gestures.
Body language is, as the late Big Brother has taught us, inescapable. How we read, record, imitate and interpret gestures informs everything about our daily lives, from culture and convention to our most ‘natural’ and intimate relationships. The exhibition ‘Let’s Take Back Our Space’ brought together the work of three artists – Robert Morris, Marianne Wex and Cerith Wyn Evans – who, in their radically different ways, explore body language as something at once urgent and inherently ambiguous. Curated by Mike Sperlinger. [publisher's note]