Rachel Harrison : ‘The Conquest of the Useless’

Creating kaleidoscopic fields of visual sensation and cultural references, Rachel Harrison combines a wide range of mediums including photography, painting, sculpture, video, installation and architectural interventions. At the heart of this survey show is her installation Indigenous Parts V, 1995-2010, a work which has been recreated in multiple locations, mutating with each context. Here it incorporates pedestals borrowed from London’s museums clustered into a landscape of towers and plateaus on which objects are arranged in idiosyncratic scenarios. Both a display and a stage set for the viewer, Indigenous Parts is simultaneously cryptic, devotional and funny.

The title of this show is drawn from Werner Herzog’s reflections on his 1982 film Fitzcarraldo, the tale of a would be rubber baron who aims to build an opera hall in the Amazonian jungle. The quixotic yet epic folly of this and Herzog’s own, nearly fatal vision of re-creating his subject’s quest to drag a steamer over a Peruvian mountain, finds its parallel in Harrison’s practice. It courts a range of references and antecedents, a give-and-take between pop culture and the history of art. At once ridiculous and profound, Harrison’s vibrantly coloured sculptures and deadpan videos create a labyrinthine panorama where works bearing the attributes of Johnny Depp and Fats Domino jostle for space alongside elaborate and subtle ruminations on vision, objecthood and phenomenological experience.

Born in 1966, Harrison lives and works in New York. She has shown across the US and in Europe, where she was recently included in the 53rd Venice Biennale and Tate Triennial of 2009.


Admission free



The exhibition was organised in collaboration with the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, and made in co-operation with Portikus, Frankfurt am Main.

With thanks to Greene Naftali Gallery, New York and the Exhibition Circle: Connie Caplan, Cranford Collection, London, Galerie Meyer Kainer, Vienna, Renée & Mark Rockefeller, Chara Schreyer and those who wish to remain anonymous.


Find out more about related talks and events.

Recommended reading: Documents of Contemporary Art: The Everyday, edited by Stephen Johnstone, £14.95.


Rachel Harrison Indigenous Parts IV, 1995 – 2009, installation view, Consider the Lobster, 2009, Hessel Museum of Art, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York. Courtesy the artist and Greene Naftali Gallery, New York. Photograph: Jason Mandella. Rachel Harrison Haycation, 2009, polystyrene, cement, Parex, acrylic, plastic, Buckmaster safety vest, scarf, straw, branches, mosquito head net, lobster, Rod Laver adidas 182.9 x 86.4 x 76.2 cm. Astrup Fearnley Collection, Oslo, Norway. Courtesy the artist and Greene Naftali, New York. Photograph: Jason Mandella. Rachel Harrison Grizzly Man, 2009, wood, polystyrene, cement, Parex, acrylic, Slim Jim rack, 35.6 x 185.4 x 121.9 cm. Courtesy the artist and Greene Naftali Gallery, New York. Photograph: Jason Mandella. 

Duration 30 April 2010 - 20 June 2010
Cost free
Venue Whitechapel Gallery
Address 80-82 Whitechapel High Street London E1 7QX, ,
Contact / / www.whitechapelgallery.org/exhibitions/rachel-harrison-conquest-of-the-useless

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