Gesticulator | Exhibition
FEBRUARY – MARCH 2023 | Open to all, free to attend
Exhibition until 10th March 2023
Gallery open weekdays, 10 am – 5pm
CLOSING NIGHT: Friday 10th March, 6-9 pm. Performances include a short reading by Sharon Young, from Ms B: The Hysterical Episodes. A contemporary case of hysteria.
“The gesture is, in this sense, communication of a communicability. It has precisely nothing to say because what it shows is the being-in-language of human beings as pure mediality. However, because being-in-language is not something that could be said in sentences, the gesture is essentially always a gesture of not being able to figure something out in language; it is always a gag in the proper meaning of the term, indicating first of all something that could be put in your mouth to hinder speech, as well as in the sense of the actor’s improvisation meant to compensate a loss of memory or an inability to speak.” – Giorgio Agamben, ‘Notes on Gesture’
The movements of the human body that we call gestures – those spontaneous yet somehow contrived, habitual yet so often self-conscious expressionistic mechanisms – common to us all, yet also emphatically individual, exist in strange relation to our systems of language and modes of representation. They are ubiquitous, ever present alongside the spoken word while at the same time separate and mute, unknowable despite their fundamental condition as action for the very sake of being seen.
According to Giorgio Agamben, gesture is neither straightforwardly image or symbol, but an exhibition of a mediality: it is the process of making a means visible as such’. However, nothing he claims, is ‘produced or acted’ within the gesture, only ‘endured and supported’, as the loss inherent therein, is directed towards the other. This exhibition seeks to examine and problematise common cliches of the gesture – as something superficial, theatrical, or cursory for example, or something readily comprehensible as the mirror of language – taking Agamben’s simile of the gag as a point of departure (or challenge), through which to scrutinise the notion of a ‘pure and endless mediality’.
No prescription has been made as to the way in which each artist approaches this theme, other than to produce a new work especially for the show. As such, some have called on (critical) gestures that already form part of their practices, thereby commenting on questions of artistic meaning, authorship, and value, while others have chosen to examine gesture as a symptom of social or political turmoil, framing their responses via other complex contexts and issues.
However, common to these and other strategies is a certain pecarity, both in terms of process and manifestation, borne of a determination to engage with the transience and silence of the gesture on its own terms, as something ingrained yet immaterial, pointing to the instability of our current times, our sensitivity to the minutiae of everyday conditions, and lack of faith in the ‘grand’ gestures of (even) the recent past.
Curated by Vicky Kim, Liz Murray, and Jeroen van Dooren, Gesticulator brings together a disparate group of artists connected by their association with the Royal College of Art, including current and former students and members of staff. The exhibition is the first in a trilogy of projects investigating the realm of the gesture in art and everyday life, each taking a different format; gallery exhibition, print publication, and online programme (currently in development).