Bad Translation 2009-2010

Juneau Projects: FORMOSA

Launch event: 13 November 2009. 6 - 9pm at the Shell Grotto, Grotto Hill Margate CT9 2BU
Exhibition then opens 15 November & 19 - 22 November, 12 - 5pm, CRATE project space. 

For the second show in the programme, CRATE has commissioned Juneau Projects to create a new live work for Margate's famous Shell Grotto. The piece, entitled Formosa (the former name for Taiwan - from the Portuguese word for 'beautiful'), builds upon the artists' ongoing interests in both vernacular architecture and in the potential for crossover between musical performance and artistic production.

It takes as its starting point the enigmatic history of the Grotto and its documented use as a place for séances, also considering the use of electrical technology as a means for recording paranormal activity.

The underground Grotto, in which 4.6 million shells form an uninterrupted 2000sqft mosaic of patterns and symbols, was discovered in 1835 by James Newlove when he lowered his son into a hole that appeared as they were digging a duck pond. Its original purpose is still the subject of much speculation: It has been described variously as a pagan temple, a Georgian folly and the meeting place for a secret cult.

'Formosa' does not offer any conclusions about the 'true purpose' of the Grotto. Instead, it draws on the idea that the Grotto is a place where ideas and sensibilities intersect, falling somewhere between a gig where the performers aren't immediately apparent and a post-apocalyptic gallery where troglodyte survivors make sculptures out of audio-visual equipment whose practical purpose has become obscured by the passing of time. The work will use audio playback from obsolete data cassettes to generate sounds which reverberate throughout the Grotto's labyrinth of underground tunnels.  These sounds will be processed digitally to trigger hallucinatory visuals which will animate the shell walls.

About the artists:

This installation is the latest in a line of works by Juneau Projects which explore the relationship between modern technology and folk and pagan traditions, finding untapped ritual or symbolic potential in objects that might normally be regarded as purely functional.

In their earliest work, Juneau Projects ritually destroyed mobile phones, portable CD players and microphones by drill, flame and shredder. The technology they destroyed produced playback as it 'died', 'screaming' in its final seconds. It was hard to determine whether these acts were exorcisms - aimed at expelling the 'ghost' from the machine - or a luddite torture fantasies, savagely mocking the idea that technology's usefulness might provide security against nature, ritual or human vengeance.   

Later work has suggested a gentler marriage of folk and pagan traditions with modern technologies. 'Trappencamp', monument the pair were commissioned to produce for Tate Britain last year, was a paradoxical 'ruin', cut from plywood and emblazoned with heraldry that had clearly been generated using computer software.  This new work shares with that piece an interest in obsolescence as a signifier of authenticity - a point which will be emphasised by the installation's relocation from the Grotto to CRATE's Project Space after the 13th.


Preview Friday 9 October, 2009. 6-9PM
Open: October 10 - 11 & October 16 - 18 2009, 12 - 5pm

CRATE presents an exhibition of new work by James Howard.

Howard has created two videos and four gigantic banners featuring budget holidays, herbal remedies, coin-operated televisions and pawn shops.

Each piece is a promise of a better life, a consumer con or an offer that is too good to be true: Gold Rush encourages people to steal "Nanna's gold" and turn it into cash, Coin Op Plasmas demands "another few quid" because Jeremy Kyle is on telly. And Dirt Cheap Flights aims to pull crowds away from Britain’s sea-side resorts.

The work takes its cues from advertisements for products and services that are so implausible or immoral that we would normally find them only on the internet - an unpoliced realm. In this exhibition, the advertisements have become real. Rendered at billboard size, they become menacing: reminders that we know little about those shady characters who fill the ‘junk’ in our email and want our credit card details.

Howard’s work seems to have been made by one of these shady characters: of no specific race or nationality (but definitely foreign), with little interest in local or national culture, insincere, probably male, and motivated by every vice, this persona is an unknowable, generic ‘other’. He does not care about the audience enough to check his English or make the images he uses beautiful or appealing –he is confident that there are as many people out there vulnerable enough to be drawn-in by his quasi-adverts as there are savvy ironists who will find the awkward Chinglish and odd products laughable.

And this character has seemingly infiltrated the gallery. Unintimidated by the art world’s refined sensibilities, he has covered every wall of CRATE’s project space with his vulgar propaganda; CRATE is, after all, merely another venue for the potential exploitation of the masses.

But are we able to separate Howard’s intentions from those of the character he seems to inhabit?

About the artist

James Howard began as a self-proclaimed scammer on the internet in the late 90's – which earned him quick cash and eventually a year in prison. Now Howard's scams found his artistic practice. He attended London's Royal Academy Schools, is included in the forthcoming Saatchi Gallery show: The Power of Paper and has been recently exhibited at Plastic Culture The Legacy of Pop with Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons and Takeshi Murakami. He is represented by Sartorial Contemporary Art, London. 


Bad Translation receives funding

Arts Council England have confirmed support for the arts programme developed by Matthew de Pulford for CRATE through its first Curatorial Bursary.

The programme comprises six events due to take place between October 2009 and June 2010. Artists confirmed for the programme include Juneau Projects, Lucy Harrison, Mark Gubb, Tom Duggan, Juan Cruz and James Howard. Bad Translation looks at the challenges that arise when we communicate: a set of differences and absences that stand between subject, speaker and audience. The programme will ask what part these differences and absences play in contemporary life, and how tools designed to aid communication can be used or abused. The programme is also supported by Kent County Council.

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