Void Gallery Programme for 2013

The contemporary art space in Derry~Londonderry is set to exhibit work by national and international artists during the City of Culture year

On the same weekend that saw Derry~Londonderry’s first major UK City of Culture 2013 event with the Sons & Daughters concert at Ebrington, the city’s Void Gallery launched its programme for the year ahead.

Although specific details have yet to be finalised, the line-up is impressive. With its mixture of emerging and established talent, and local and international artists, it offers an exciting proposition of shock, variety, provocation, and promise.

Void's City of Culture programme effectively began in November 2012, when Turner Prize nominee Phil Collins exhibited in the gallery. This Unfortunate Thing Between Us came to an end on January 11, and was a brutal, difficult examination of the consumer's relationship with media and production where the audience was placed in a uncomfortably banal sitting room and exposed to shopping channel pornography. A disturbing look at complicity.

The Void programme continues on Saturday, January 26 with Him + Her by Candice Breitz. This is a major coup for Void, as Breitz has exhibited throughout the world, and her work is displayed at such places as the Guggenheim and New York’s Museum of Modern Art. She explores identity and recognition, and the acquisition of identity.

Him + Her presents the viewer with two rooms. In one, seven screens will show images and monologues of Jack Nicholson, taken from throughout his screen career. In the other, seven more screens will show Meryl Streep. The images are stripped of background and context, so there’s distraction from the words, faces, mannerisms, and postures.

Separated from the audience by screen, celebrity, talent, money and geography, film idols provide us with examples to follow, to incorporate into our own lives, so their responses become our responses, just as music gives us a soundtrack to events and literature gives us words to articulate feelings.

By presenting us with the pared-down images and language of two icons, Breitz attempts to make us, the viewers, confront the way in which we are guided and shaped by the media that increasingly dominates our lives.

Each of the six exhibitions this year at the Void has a different curator, and much of the work featured will be premiering in Derry. One of the most interesting is likely to be 8 Derry Artists, coming to the gallery in July. Curated by Greg McCartney, this show will be the first time Derry artists have actually been exhibited properly and fully in the city.

The final names have not been released, but the theme has been decided. Each artist will be presented with the title of 'Tomorrow’s Almost Over', and then allowed to explore their response. The idea is to look at where we are now – personally, socially, politically – in order to secure the tomorrow we want.

'The exhibition will highlight local artists' production,' said McCartney, 'showing that Void is grounded in local as well as international artists.'

The work will range from painting to video to installations, and will give the city the opportunity to see its own talent. It’s an opportunity that is all too rare: the city’s education system doesn’t offer a fine arts degree, so young artists have to leave to pursue their studies elsewhere.

Greg McCartney is also overseeing the Gardens Project, an exciting departure for Void. Throughout the year, art is being taken out into the city beyond the gallery.

Katie Holten, Locky Morris, and the duo of Dan Harvey and Heather Ackroyd are each being given a public space within Derry in which to exhibit. Their task is to reanimate those spaces, to ensure that public art doesn’t simply fade into the background, and that people are placed in the midst of art.

From May to June, Void will host an exhibition by Russian artist, Andrei Molodkin. As well as showing work taken from his series Direct from the Pipe, Molodkin will be creating new work specially for the exhibition, work that will look at Derry’s place and history within Northern Ireland. Molodkin’s work uses crude oil, and in doing so explores the way the West uses it and is driven by the need for it.

He has created work spelling out words such as Democracy, Hope, and Revolution, in receptacles shaped as letters and then filled with oil. As a soldier in the Russian army, Molodkin used oil to achieve a high. He would smear it on bread, allow it to dry, and then eat it. He has attempted to make his own oil using human corpses in a giant pressure cooker, and is exploring the use of highly controversial materials for his Derry exhibition.

Controversy is almost bound to dog Void’s final exhibition of 2013. Co-curated by Jonathan Cummins and Sara Greavu, this is by Santiago Sierra, and again will be work having its premier in Derry. Sierra is, according to Greavu, 'one of the most interesting artists working today'.

'His work is a hard-hitting treatment of deeply emotive issues, but full of poetry and beauty,' added Greavu,  'which speaks to the gallery system. It sounds exploitative, but that's the point. Audiences have to consider their own privilege.'

Confronting global labour issues, inequality and exploitation, Sierra’s work is harsh and difficult. Aping the methods of capitalism, he hires workers – prostitutes, illegal immigrant labourers – and employs them to become his exhibits. The tasks they perform within the art works are often degrading and pointless.

In so doing, Sierra shows the plight of the exploited, and makes his audience think about their complicity in the exploitation. His titles are stark and self-explanatory – 100 Beggars – so there is no hiding place for anyone involved, the artist included.

Prior to Santiago Sierra, Mark Wallinger will be showing another new work at Void. The 2007 Turner Prize winner is one of the UK’s leading artists. In 1999, his work, 'Ecce Homo', stood on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square, challenging accepted views of Christ. Working in a variety of media, his work has examined cultural traditions and habits, and scrutinised established religions.

In addition to the established artists, Void will be exhibiting works by Laura Morrison and Maite Zabala, two young artists with growing reputations. Their joint presentation begins in late March 2013. The new work is being prepared specifically for Void.

Visit the Void website for more information on the artists exhibiting during 2013.