Chelsea Space is delighted to present OBSERVER: John Latham and the Distant Perspective. For the first time, John Latham, a pioneer of British conceptual art, is the focus of an exhibition at Chelsea Space. This exhibition presents work by Latham that employs an aerial viewpoint and investigates how the use of this perspective is positioned in his wider thinking.
Whilst on an artist placement with the Scottish Development Agency in the 1970s, Latham was invited to suggest solutions for the problem of derelict land outside Edinburgh. When asked ‘from which perspective would he be looking at Scotland’, he apparently pointed to a map of the country and responded ‘from this distance’ . The distant view allows for comprehension in a broader context and Latham believed an aerial viewpoint offered a mode of understanding otherwise outside of human consciousness. His research in the Scottish Development Agency’s aerial photography archive allowed access to huge resource of such material that became hugely important to his work. It is a viewpoint he felt was ‘necessary if humanity is to see itself objectively’ . In the archival material, photographic and video works included in this exhibition we can understand the use of aerial imagery as a metaphor for an expansive mode of understanding, and as a means for locating oneself in the world and the universe.
This exhibition is a collaboration between MA Curating and Collections (Chelsea College of Arts, UAL) and Flat Time House (a London landmark that was declared a Living Sculpture in 2003). The show stems from extensive research of John Latham’s archival material supervised by Flat Time House Director and Curator Gareth Bell-Jones.
The curatorial approach is based on Latham’s interpretation of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s 1880 novel The Brothers Karamazov. According to Latham, each of the three brothers represents a kind of ‘observing person.’ Mitya is instinctive, Ivan is rational, while Alyosha relies on intuition in his observations. This third, intuitive perspective is held in wider society by the artist, referred to by Latham as ‘The Incidental Person’. The Incidental Person encompasses the characteristics of the other two observers but has the ability to reflect and view things from a distance.
The layout of Chelsea Space invites viewers to navigate Latham’s work and theories as one of these three brothers might. The Reading Room introduces a rational view of Latham through contextual material. As viewers instinctively follow the Ramp, they engage with the exhibition as Mitya. The Main Space presents a reflective and intuitive look at Latham’s work, embodying the perspective of Alyosha.
John Latham (1921-2006) was a British conceptual artist and Chelsea College of Arts graduate (1947-1951). With a career spanning more than fifty years, he made significant contributions to contemporary art, blending science, art and philosophy. Latham has had numerous international exhibitions at institutions including the Serpentine Galleries, London, UK (2017); Kunsthalle Bern, Switzerland (1973); Städtische Kunsthalle, Düsseldorf, Germany (1975); P.S.1. Contemporary Art Center, New York, NY, USA (2006). Latham's work is in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art, New York and Tate Gallery, London. He was the subject of a solo show at Tate Britain in London (2005).
This exhibition was made possible by the support of the Director and trustees of Flat Time House.
Flat Time House (FTHo) was the studio home of John Latham (1921-2006), recognised as one of the most significant and influential British post-war artists. In 2003, Latham declared the house a living sculpture, naming it FTHo after his theory of time, ‘Flat Time’. Until his death, Latham opened his door to anyone interested in thinking about art. It is in this spirit that Flat Time House opened in 2008 as a gallery with a programme of exhibitions and
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