British artist Marianna Simnett creates fable-like film, performance, sound and light installations that examine the sense of intimacy yet anxious unfamiliarity we experience with our own bodies. She particularly focuses on the means we deploy to control these bodies, both technological and cultural. The exhibition presents a group of recent work from the Zabludowicz Collection: three films The Udder (2014), Blood (2015), and Blue Roses (2016) – installed as a trilogy for the first time – alongside a sound and light installation Faint with Light (2016).
Simnett’s films unfold from multiple, occasionally impossible perspectives (from within dreams or personifying internal organs), reflecting the fluidity of our identities as they are embodied and performed. Consistently working with untrained actors, many of the individuals Simnett meets through her research become collaborators, performing heightened versions of themselves within the films. Her works often provoke a visceral reaction, featuring unflinching depictions of many commonplace phobias such as needles, cockroaches, blood, and of medical procedures which the artist has herself undergone. They present the body as both monstrous and clinical, combining scientific description with the cathartic fantasy of musicals and horror genres. Simnett writes songs, performed by her cast, that lend an air of innocence and lightness to her densely layered storytelling.
Simnett’s works seek to create in-between states that defy and threaten easy categorisation by the patriarchal social structures that govern our bodies and identities. It’s an approach that throws into doubt binary categories such as innocence and cruelty, purity and contamination, desire and revulsion, and even life and death.
Marianna Simnett opens alongside a solo exhibition by American artist Ericka Beckman. The exhibitions continue the Collection’s 2018 focus on artists’ film and video examining ideas of embodiment and performance of identity in relation to technology. Beckman and Simnett have each established unique approaches to storytelling that draw upon fairy tale archetypes and their works share an interest in how gender is constructed and its relationship to mechanisms of desire and capitalist consumption. Their works reflect the impact of new technologies - robotics, virtual reality, bio-medical - on both the built environment and subjectivity. In addition, both artists have developed distinctive uses of sound in their work as a pre-linguistic tool for communication. They utilise tropes of the musical, from the abstract repetitions and rhythms of playground chants and nursery rhymes, to the cathartic effect of song as a narrative device.
About the artist
Marianna Simnett lives and works in London. A trained musician, the influence of theatre and classical music on her work endured as she turned to film, installation and performance during her BA at Nottingham Trent University in 2007 and her MA at the Slade School of Art in 2013. Simnett’s work has been the subject of several solo exhibitions including Wing-sleepers (Art on the Underground, London, UK) in 2018; Worst Gift, Matt’s Gallery (London, UK) in 2017; Lies, Seventeen Gallery (New York, NY) and Valves Collapse, Seventeen Gallery (London, UK) in 2016; Park Nights, Serpentine Pavilion (London, UK) and Blue Roses, Comar (Isle of Mull, Scotland) in 2015. Her work has also been included in group exhibitions and screenings, most recently at Anthology Film Archives (New York, NY); Bergen Kunsthall (Bergen, Norway); Kunsthalle Bratislava, (Bratislava, Slovakia); Whitechapel Gallery (London, UK) in 2017; the Serpentine Galleries (London, UK); Two Short Night Film Festival (Devon, UK); Contemporary Art Centre (Vilnius, Lithuania); FACT (Liverpool, UK); Art Basel (Hong Kong); Bluecoat (Liverpool, UK) in 2016; Chronus Art Center (Shanghai, China); Jerwood/FVU Award (London, UK and Glasgow, Scotland) in 2015. Simnett was a winner of the Jerwood/FVU Award (2015), the Adrian Carruthers Award (2013) and the William Coldstream Prize (2013). She was shortlisted for the Jarman Award and Paul Hamlyn in 2017.