Runa Islam Syntax Materiality And Histories Of Visual Representation

White Cube Hoxton Square is mounting an exhibition by the artist Runa Islam. In her recent practice, she has explored the syntax, materiality and histories of visual representation, often in relation to the medium of film. Adopting diverse sculptural and cinematic approaches in the presentation of her work, she disrupts, alters and enhances visual and architectural space, shifting perception and drawing attention to the act of seeing.

For her exhibition at White Cube Hoxton Square, the artist has made two new films. Shot in 16mm and 35mm and using a visual language so reduced it is at times almost abstracted, the works use the early cinematographic technique of multiple exposure as a framework to investigate synchronicity and divergence, originality and reproduction and the deferment of artistic control.  Alongside these two new works, an architectural intervention into the physical site of the building, the gallery at 48 Hoxton Square, emphasises the interrelationships between artwork, viewing subject and site.

Also included in the exhibition is the 16mm film ‘Cabinet of Prototypes’ (2009/2010).  Made from research Islam conducted as an artist fellow at the Smithsonian Institution’s Freer and Arthur M. Sackler Galleries, it shows the stands, hooks, plinths and labels used to present artefacts in the collection. The artist brings these support structures that would normally remain concealed back into view, erasing their functionality and restaging them as sculptural objects in their own right. Islam also includes armatures intended for the presentation of museum objects as components of the exhibition, retrieving these structures from invisibility and holding them up for display. 

Often folding the machinery of film into the works and including numerous self-reflexive allusions, the exhibition presents a layered meditation on the mechanisms of viewing and perception and the narratives of art making and display.

Runa Islam makes film and video installations that use overlapping layers of narrative to explore notions of truth and fiction, subjectivity and authorship. Islam installs her films in architectural configurations, frequently presenting them across two or three screens as a framing device. Her work aims to blur the distinctions between film and sculpture, art and cinema, and encourages a range of interpretations from viewers.

Early works often emerged from her interest in well-known passages of avant-garde film. Tuin (1998), for example, recreates a moment from Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s film Martha (1973) and in Scale 1/16 inch = 1 foot (2003), the artist re-stages the film in the 1960s Brutalist car park featured in the cult film Get Carter (1971). In more recent work, Islam often takes a single visual motif as her point of departure, such as a woman distractedly spinning a ring in Dead Time (2000), a girl turning towards the camera and then vanishing in Turn (Gaze of Orpheus) (1998), a group of rickshaw drivers instructed by the artist to sit and do nothing in First Day of Spring (2005), or a cable car receding from its port in Time Lines (2005). From these initial images, she intertwines a range of visual and conceptual languages, combining analytical and experimental sequences to create beguilingly open-ended works. In her most recent work, Conditional Probability (2006), Islam has worked with an inner city school, recruiting the pupils to act in a series of interrelated mise-en-scènes.

Runa Islam was born in 1970 in Dhaka, Bangladesh. She lives and works in London, UK. Solo exhibitions include Projects 95: Runa Islam MOMA, New York (2011), Runa Islam, Site Santa Fe, Santa Fe, New Mexico (2011), Runa Islam, Musée d’art Contemporain de Montréal (2010) and Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney (2010) The Restless Subject, Kunsthaus Zurich and Museum Folkwang, Essen (2008), Empty The Pond To Get The Fish, MUMOK, Vienna (2008) UCLA Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2005), Dunkers Kulturhus, Helsingborg (2005), Camden Arts Centre, London (2005), Centre d’Art Santa Monica, Barcelona (2005) and  MIT List Visual Arts Centre, Cambridge, Massachussetts (2003). She has participated in many group exhibitions, including the 6th Asia Pacific Triennale, Queensland Art Museum, Brisbane (2009), The Cinema Effect, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington (2008) the Turner Prize, Tate Britian (2008), Brave New Worlds, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2007) the 51st International Venice Biennale (2005), More than This! Negotiating Realities, Göterborg International Biennale for Contemporary Art (2005) and 8th International Istanbul Biennial (2003).

Runa Islam 21 September – 3 November 2012

48 Hoxton Square  London  N1 6PB  United Kingdom

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