Several Attentions – Lying Freely Part III is New Zealand artist Ruth Buchanan’s first solo show in the UK and is realised in collaboration with partners Casco, Office for Art, Design and Theory, Utrecht and If I Can’t Dance, I Don’t Want To Be Part Of Your Revolution, Amsterdam, each of whom are producing a stage of the project.
Buchanan has worked across these three platforms by constructing ‘meetings’ between herself and the practices of three well-known female literary figures, Virginia Woolf, Agatha Christie and Janet Frame. Understanding that each of these women have dealt with the idea of what it means to have an artistic life in public, Buchanan explores the tensions between private need and public expectation, and individual desires and collectively received legacies.
In each case, Buchanan departs from a particular text or event to develop a work that positions herself in relation to these questions. Nothing Is Closed, a guided tour through the Rietveld Schröder House in Utrecht, takes Janet Frame’s autobiographical novel Towards Another Summer as its departure point. In Circular Facts, a performance at Frascati Theatre, Amsterdam, Buchanan works with the true story of Agatha Christie’s disappearance, and in London she will take Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own as her subject.
In A Room of One’s Own – an essay addressing the relationship between women and fiction – Woolf thinks through the conditions under which the production of a work of art can occur and how one works with received legacies. In the development of her argument she makes both precise and complex use of the narrator’s voice, shifting from first person to a fictional self, and back; interweaving references to her own works, and those by her predecessors and her contemporaries. She stages an economy of voice to question what it is, or what it could be to speak.
In A Room of One’s Own, 'the character' who speaks throughout the central body of the text, sets out for the British Museum in the 'pursuit of truth' and compiles an unnerving collection of quotations and thoughts after making a catalogue search under the subject heading Woman and Poverty. The books she cites are now housed at the British Library and it is from these that Buchanan constructs the film. After spending a summer sourcing each excerpt in the library. Buchanan has made a microfilm compiling all of these 'references' and in the resulting 16mm film Several Attentions, the artist is seen from the back working with the microfilm. Using the microfilm reader she is able to distort and manipulate the material, shifting the way in which it is perceived; the microfilm is flipped, turned upside down, moved from a detail to an overview, reorganised and obscured by her own body. These processes of obscuring, reversing and movement become present in the installation as Buchanan instigates physical relations that recalibrate relationships with the space of history, and the many voices and positions that create an artistic practice.
Shown within a installation at The Showroom, Buchanan makes a series of spatial configurations incorporating elements including of a 35mm slide, photographs, text prints and sound in order to question how one speaks as an artist today and what space this voice creates.
Lying Freely is co-produced by The Showroom, Casco, Office for Art, Design and Theory, If I Can’t Dance, I Don’t Want to Be Part of Your Revolution, and the Jan van Eyck Academie. It was made possible with support from the Jan van Eyck Academie and Creative New Zealand. Several Attentions has had further support from the British Library and Kodak.
It is also part of Circular Facts.