"How can we learn to live happily while being intelligently aware of our impending doom? Does knowledge of death affect the decisions we make and how we can stop fear and anxiety overwhelming us in spite of this awareness?" two questions roaming around "The Worm at the Core" exhibition curated by Cristiano Di Martino and Conor Ackhurst.
Everyone thinks about death— artists, perhaps more often than others. However, in this modern world, death feels so far ahead. Is it simply because we are still young? Is it because we live in an ever-developing city with new buildings, shiny surfaces, rushing people and open shops? Perhaps we don't see death in our everyday lives filled with everyday struggles, but we can feel its hand on our shoulders.
The last few years brought us a new sense of heaviness. As if grey clouds obscured our blue sky and settled there permanently. Was it like this before? Every generation has its struggles but did they also feel doomed? Does whatever we do have any meaning if we will soon become food for worms, yet still, others will come after us with precisely the same questions?
Ironically, some time ago, I read in the book Management of Art Galleries that Max Hollein, current Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, measures success in terms of quality and the impact of the message the current exhibition communicates. Ironically, as this book considers a new business model for commercial galleries, and The Worm at the Core exhibition could not create more contrast to the posh, exclusive, sell-centred art world. Yet, precisely because of its quality and the impact of the exhibition's message, I believe it's the show of the year. It is self-funded, curated and organised by two artists and based in the SET Woolwich building. SET is a charity that provides artists with affordable studio spaces, so the exhibition was literally above some participating artists' workplaces. That already creates an exciting starting point for reviewing such a big show.
Moreover, I have not seen such professionally and cleanly installed works of art for a long time, even in the most famous galleries in London. The wall text, labels and press release were printed on good-quality paper and presented elegantly. They included all information for the audience to quickly understand the concept (which was visible even without the text) and find artists on Instagram. It felt that exactly every element of the show was thought through.
About the participating artists: what a fascinating list of names! I was pleasantly surprised to see such a variety. Some of them graduated very recently, while others have already exhibited at major international institutions; however, the theme of this show beautifully presents that, in fact, we are all equal, even in the art world. No matter how many steps ahead we are in comparison to others with whom we exhibit - as humans, beings with flesh and bones, we are all equal. This exhibition also made me realise how awareness of our impending doom and a feeling of uncertainty permeate the practices of artists whose works I have seen many times in the last few years.
The quality of the exhibition organisation, the list of participating artists, the space and its character, as well as precision in noticing and translating to the audience the themes/questions/concerns that run through the practices of contemporary artists, made me consider The Worm at the Core as the exhibition of the year. It is a perfect and professional example of a site and time-specific art project.
Wonderful printing done by Joseph Michael @turtleprintart
CONOR ACKHURST / LAURA BENSON / ANNA CLEGG / JAMES DAVISON / MARC-AURÈLE DEBUT / CRISTIANO DI MARTINO / ALI GLOVER / MARIE- LOUISE JONES / ANNA- LENA KRAUSE / LAYLA SIMNER LOCK / ROMANA LONDI / GEORGE HENRY LONGLY / ANDREA LUCCHESI / ISABEL MACCARTHY / BENJAMIN MURPHY / ELLA JOY NELSON / JANEK NIXON / THORN NULTY / ROBERT O'LEARY/ SALVO PIONE / GORGE RICHARDSON / CATRIONA ROBERTSON / JAKOB ROWLINSON / ALESSANDRO SCHNEIDER / LOULOU SIEM / SHINUK SUH / MIA VALLANCE / JENKIN VAN ZYL / FELIX VILLIERS / JACK WARNE