A Tradition I Do Not Mean To Break, an exhibition of new audiovisual work made with the support of the Zabludowicz Collection. New films by David Blandy, Henry Coombes and Tereza Buskova were be presented alongside works from the Zabludowicz Collection.
Continuing the focus on music and folklore at 176 in 2009, Blandy, Coombes and Buskova each engage with a particular cultural subject with which they have strongly identified, reconfiguring it in striking ways. Linked as much by the artists' interests in examining historical figures as by their sensitivity to myth, custom and symbolism, the works in A Tradition I Do Not Mean To Break share a rich filmic aesthetic that variously borders on the gothic, the melancholic and the opulent. The exhibition also featured specially commissioned performances by each of the artists.
Tereza Buskova's video Spring Equinox (2009) explores the traditional rites of spring in the Czech Republic, the artist's country of origin. The film depicts stylized tableaux vivants and choreographies inspired by Moravian fertility rituals and traditional dress. For Spring Equinox, Buskova has collaborated with the Czech performing arts company Nanohach, pioneering electric cellist Bela Emerson, and continues her ongoing creative relationship with actress and playwright Zoë Simon. Exploring practices of dress and masquerade as well as pagan rituals and alternative cosmologies, Buskova's works are often rendered in highly theatrical and constructed ways, with elaborate mise-en-scènes, props and costumes.
Henry Coombes's Super 16mm film The Bedfords (2008) combines historical references with rich psychological subtext. The work is inspired by events in the life of the English painter Sir Edwin Henry Landseer (1802-1873), with whom the artist has a strong affinity. Focusing on Landseer's relationship with the Duke of Bedford, an important patron of his art, and his rumored affair with Bedford's wife, the film imagines one of the painter's visits to the Bedford's estate to complete a portrait commission, and the ensuing hunting party and family relationships, shot through with surreal scenes and heavily loaded dialogue.
David Blandy's film installation Crossroads (2009) grew out of the artist's interest in excavating the myth of Robert Johnson. The legendary blues guitarist and singer is said to have gained his extraordinary skills after selling his soul to the devil at the crossroads at nightfall, yet he died aged 33 with an output of only 29 recorded songs. The mystique surrounding Johnson's fate is compounded by his three gravestones and the murkiness of any historical account of his life. Blandy's identification with Johnson led him to visit the musician's gravestones and re-enact popular clichés associated with blues music and the deep South including presenting himself at the crossroads at sundown. Crossroads offers a series of archetypal tableaux, exquisitely shot in high definition. The installation includes a replica shack that alludes to the informal dwellings in the South of the USA, complete with a porch and rocking chair from which to view the film.
Crossroads is an Arts Council England National Touring Commission initiated by Spike Island and supported by Zabludowicz Collection. It will be shown at Turner Contemporary, Margate, 4 April - 14 June, before coming to 176.