exhibition archive

Ian Whittlesea

Friday 01.05.09 10am-10pm

press release | images | publication | invitation


To celebrate May Day (traditionally the date of International Worker’s Day, Maypole dancing and anti-capitalist protest) CHELSEA space is proud to present a 12 hour excerpt from Ian Whittlesea’s remarkable work Economy.

Economy consists of the entire first chapter of Henry David Thoreau’s great book Walden, projected one word at a time. First published in 1854, and itself called “Economy”, this chapter contains some of Thoreau’s most radical observations on living deliberately, self-reliance, consumerism and the relationships between an individual and society.

From 10am until 10pm the glass box of CHELSEA space will be full of Thoreau’s words. Projected in daylight as white text on a white wall, each word will fade slowly into the next, becoming more visible as the light of May Day fades away. Economy will be viewable from outside the gallery and across the parade ground that separates Chelsea College of Art & Design from Tate Britain.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a publication with an essay by Richard Deming of Yale University, which concludes:

"The cost of a thing is the amount of what I call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run," Thoreau writes in "Economy". With Whittlesea’s installation, one knows exactly what amount of time – and thus what part of our lives – needs to be given to the piece, both in its making and in its experiencing, and this itself serves as some comment on the market forces that shape the art world. Art asks of us everything we are willing to give it, and now with Economy we have an exact sense of what that cost is for this specific encounter. We can decide not to pay it or offer anything in exchange – either way, the choice we make is our own. The exchange, however, is the realization that interpretation, the ongoing act of reading, working, and participating in larger social, ethical, and existential patterns are, first and last, a shared endeavour. This shared labour, this literal collaboration in the hope of meaning, Whittlesea’s installation reminds us, is a human economy."

Ian Whittlesea was born in 1967 and lives and works in London. He studied painting at Chelsea College of Art & Design and sculpture at the Royal College of Art, London. Recent solo shows include Occasionals, London and Ocular Lab, Melbourne, Australia. His translation of Yves Klein’s 1954 book Les Fondements du Judo was published in March 2009 by The Everyday Press, London.

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