Focal Point Gallery is pleased to present Hannah Sawtell’s exhibition ‘#Standardiser’. Having shown her work internationally, this is the first time the British artist has produced new work to occupy an entire public institution, including the entrance foyer and exterior of the building.
Sawtell’s multi-disciplinary work is concerned with the consumption of images and objects in a globally connected society, and aims to provoke debate around the technology of access, labour, capital and surplus, desire and excess. Describing her method as investigating ‘the screen as a lens’, and using the Internet to research and shape her approach, Sawtell’s work exploits the processes and materials accessible in the current culture of connectivity.
Working closely with small-scale manufacturers, Sawtell produces bespoke structures that draw on specialist industrial materials and finishes from around the UK. For her exhibition in Southend, Sawtell has designed and installed a custom-made modular acoustic display system in Gallery 1, in which an acoustic mirror concentrates sound waves into one area of the room from a series of audio transmitters. Intended to create a ‘dense digital situation’, this suspended system is the apparatus by which to experience a new CGI animated video and audio work, made using contemporary media, such as tablets, phones and downloadable software. Sawtell describes her audiovisual works as ‘decelerated repetition’. The video on the corresponding screen (made from bullet-proof plastic) imagines a computer-generated concrete cooling tower (used in power generation), wind turbines and the proposal for a luxury Norwegian hotel in the shape of a floating glass snowflake. Like many of Sawtell’s videos, the virtual camera is set as a single shot, tracking the object, in this case using the same circling motions as a low-level camera drone. A close-up of a river of animated crude oil creeps across the screen, and makes reference to the oil industries presence along the banks of the Thames Estuary.
Gallery 2 is dominated by two lit display structures designed by the artist, upon which sit objects produced using a number of machine processes that convert computer data into physical forms. These additive (printing) and subtractive (carving) processes, including 3D printing and CNC machining, allow the artist to work with non-copyrighted (CC) wireframes (visual models of objects used in computer graphics) downloaded from the Internet. These range from parts of a military drone and the human body, to consumer technology and biological viruses such as Ebola and Hepatitis C. Describing the wireframe as a ‘culturally pre-fossilised structure’, Sawtell’s binary presentation of this collection allows the audience to examine each item in-depth, in a display more akin to a retail environment.
Meanwhile, the Window Gallery provides a setting for Sawtell’s on going dissection and reconfiguration of the language and advertising employed within new forums of consumption. In #Standardiser_Devise, the windows of the library employ the repeated emblem of the 1903- designed British Standard Kitemark, one of the oldest product quality marks still in use today, and a symbol of a British design and industry.
Alongside this, Sawtell’s work #Standardiser_Squatter sees the display cabinets in the gallery’s entrance sealed up using security screening, hired and installed by a company that secure vacant buildings. Inside, Sawtell has placed a plastic crate containing a large quantity of the artist’s interpretation of Bitcoins – an unregulated virtual currency that is used to trade online anonymously and is not linked to any one political mechanism.
This exhibition is the first in a series of projects with the artist, which will include two offsite projects that will be launching over the next year.
Hannah Sawtell (b.1971) lives and works in London. In 2013 she was shortlisted for the Jarman Award and her work has had solo exhibitions at institutions including, The New Museum, New York (2014), Kunsthall Bergen (2014), ICA, London (2012) Bloomberg SPACE, London (2012), Vilma Gold, London (2013), Serpentine Gallery Offsite Programme, London (2010). Sawtell’s work also featured in the artist’s film and video programme at Tate Britain, London (2013). Hannah Sawtell is represented by Vilma Gold, London.