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Barbican Art Gallery presents ‘them’s the breaks’, a new site-specific installation for The Curve from interdisciplinary design practice RESOLVE Collective. 

RESOLVE Collective, Ships at a Distance, 2022. SADACCA, Sheffield. Photography: Becky Payne Photography. Courtesy of Barbican.

“Foraging” materials from across London and the South Coast, as well as re-using objects from previous installations, RESOLVE will construct an interactive landscape in The Curve. A vast wave of reclaimed and re-purposed materials and ephemera will ripple across the length of the 90-metre space and flow up the walls. Visitors will be encouraged to touch and interact with the installation, breaking down barriers between the public and the art on display. RESOLVE will produce their original installation according to ultrasonic evaluations of the Barbican’s iconic concrete structures; radically re-thinking the fabric of the institution, the results of this analysis will inform a dynamic and collaborative response to the splintered histories of these stony surrounds.

The mutated gallery will serve as forum as much as exhibition, allowing for sitting, meditating, working, conversing, and existing freely within the Barbican’s wider public space. In tandem with the installation, RESOLVE will co-curate a programmeof thematic events, working alongside their creative collaborators to gather artists, thinkers, creatives, and organisers; facilitating critical, curious, and joyful discussion about and around society’s institutions.

Shanay Jhaveri, Head of Visual Arts, Barbican said: “RESOLVE’s commitment to forging connections, foregrounding sustainability, pushing boundaries, and championing local communities speaks to the Barbican’s own values, and we are excited to see them take over The Curve this Spring. The collective’s work on structural and social breakdown and repair is acutely timely in this era of global disruption, and indeed closer to home, as the exhibition invites us to reflect on what restoration, renewal and regeneration look like in an established institution like the Barbican. These are ideas that we and other arts institutions are constantly grappling with, so we’re eager to hear the important conversations that RESOLVE’s installation will spark.”

Bringing together architecture, engineering, technology, and art to address social challenges, RESOLVE collaborate to explore equitable visions of change, providing platforms for the production of new knowledge and ideas. Led by Seth Scafe-Smith, Akil Scafe-Smith and Melissa HaniffRESOLVE forge creative ecosystems around each new project, turning their sites into a resource for local communities, thinkers, and makers. For RESOLVE and their collaborators, design has value beyond the aesthetic; it serves as a mechanism for political and socio-economic change. 

RESOLVE said: “We are obsessing over what grows from the cracks of this work. It’s important for us for this to feel not like the culmination of individual work but an early moment in much broader movements. It is a fragment of a wider collective endeavour to rethink the role of our society’s institutions. This means not only the physical architectures of its galleries, universities, schools, prisons, but also the innumerable, intangible social institutions that anchor our existence and continually define and prescribe to society’s discontents what is ‘possible’. Working with curator Jon Astbury and The Curve gallery presents us with a chance to make some of this thinking legible, bring others in to co-conspire with us – like Gut Level, YesMake!, George Kafka, and others –  and to celebrate ideas that have preceded and will long outlast this exhibition. The hope is that this is as much the transformation of gallery space as it is the co-authorship of radical narratives through what is organised, performed, reinvigorated, and deconstructed in and outside of this space.”

The events programme will be structured in four phases, each addressing a different perspective of the themes of them’s the breaksIn the first phase in March, RESOLVE will convene discussions with individuals from their wider network of collaborators, offering an opportunity for collective learning within the mutated gallery space.

The second phase, taking place in April, will focus on the theme of education, looking to forge a space that can platform new knowledges and explore new ways of learning, and in June, the third phase will work with Sheffield-based, queer-led DIY event space Gut Level to consider how we can provide space for joy in the context of precarity, with the installation playing host to a sound archive and a summer party.

The final phase in July, the Closing Down Sale, will be the culmination of an exhibition which has its roots firmly grounded in the spirit of re-distribution. Ephemera will be earmarked for reclamation over the course of the show, allowing the installation to manage its own decline. Everything must go!

RESOLVE Collective have exhibited internationally, with solo shows including LIDO solo exhibition at De La Warr Pavilion, participating in Where The Wild Things Are residency with West Dean College, Wellcome Collection, and De La Warr Pavilion (2022); Summer House solo exhibition at Brighton CCA featuring Bobby Brown, Afrori Books, and Pacheanne Anderson (2022/23); and projects including LOCAL editorial season with Skin Deep magazine (2021/22); We Wunt Be Druv / Tings Nuh Run We installation with Wellcome Collection and Coram’s Fields Youth Centre;The Garage, S1 Artspace residency, Sheffield (2019); Ships at A Distance: Oronde, Almanzora, Windrush installation at Sheffield Crucible Theatre with SADACCA and Ark Sheffield (2022); Close From Afar installation and public programme with NOW Gallery for LDF2020 and Programming Im:passivity (2020) installation for Kunstverein Braunschweig and SAVVY Contemporary Berlin.

For more information, please visit the Barbican.

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