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Olivia Plender, Nutmegs (2009), series of posters. Photograph by: Matthew Booth.

Olivia Plender, The Empire City (2009), installation view. Photograph by: Matthew Booth.

Olivia Plender, The Empire City (2009), installation view. Photograph by: Matthew Booth.

Olivia Plender, What Is England? (2009), video installation. Photograph by: Matthew Booth.

Olivia Plender

AADIEU ADIEU APA (Goodbye Goodbye Father) is a new installation by Olivia Plender that delves into the history of mass public spectacle and its relationship to issues of sovereignty, by focusing in part, on the British Empire exhibition which took place in the west London suburb of Wembley in 1924. The exhibition also explores theatricality in politics in the present day and incorporates the artist's long standing interest in the theatre of the absurd, political satire and popular printing.

As an event, the British Empire exhibition aimed to educate the public about Britain's trading relationships with the countries that were part of its Empire, whilst displaying the apparent ‘benefits’ of Imperialism. Simultaneously, the event played a key role in promoting the emerging leisure and tourism industries, as well as the westward expansion of London which promised a new suburban lifestyle, branded as ‘Metro-land' living.

By considering the ritualistic and theatrical ways in which imperial power and the idea of ‘progress’ were exemplified in World's Fairs, AADIEU ADIEU APA (Goodbye Goodbye Father) makes parallels with the economic and social effects of the contemporary tourism industry and mega-events, such as the 2012 Olympics.


The installation comprises of three interlinked elements using satire and absurdism as its main mode of communication. The Empire City (2009) is a museum-like diorama which partially reconstructs the site at Wembley where the British Empire exhibition took place. Models of all the national pavilions from Canada and New Zealand, to Palestine are overlaid with fictive narratives and present day scenarios.

What is England? (2009), a video work incorporating contemporary footage of Wembley stadium and its surrounding residential areas, functions as a lecture on English history. Delivered by an elated Prince of Tourists, it muses over the language, customs, traditions, trade and industry of the English nation, before taking the viewer on a tour of the British Empire exhibition as re-imagined by the artist. The Prince of Tourists' speech is preceded by a short advertisement for “an absurdist play in which England and Iceland are at war”.

A series of five posters based on examples of popular printing through the ages, recall and satirise seemingly incongruous historical occurrences relating to the themes of nationalism, trade and consumption. Such narratives include the attack on the Rokeby Venus at the National Gallery made by the suffragette Mary Richardson in 1914, the appearance of a whale in the Thames estuary in 2006, and the recent use of anti-terrorist law by the British government to seize Icelandic bank assets.

The title of the exhibition derives from The Chairs (1952) by Eugène Ionesco, one of the foremost playwrights of the Theatre of the Absurd. In the play, the words AADIEU ADIEU APA form part of the final ‘message’ delivered by a deaf-mute orator to an assembled room of invisible representatives of society, including ‘The Emperor’. If the playwright has wished farewell to ultimate truth, symbolised by the paternalistic role of the Emperor, Olivia Plender comments on Britain’s Imperial past and the ways in which this legacy continues to affect us today.

Olivia Plender is an artist living and working in London. Her work has been shown internationally in exhibitions and venues including the 2006 and 2009 Tate Triennial, Tate Britain; the Hessel Museum, CCS Bard, New York (2009); Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt (2008); The Power Plant, Toronto (2008); Transmission Gallery, Glasgow (2008); The Drawing Room, London (2008). Olivia Plender has had solo shows in places including Kiosk, Ghent (2009); Art in General, New York (2008); Marabou Parken, Stockholm (2007); Castlefield Gallery, Manchester (2005). She was the recipient of the Paul Hamlyn Foundation Award for Artists in 2006.



Thursday 1 October 2009, 7 – 9pm

At Gasworks

Screening of the documentary film of Öyvind Fahlström's performance Kisses Sweeter Than Wine, 1966, dir. Barbro Schultz Lundestam (2006, 71 min). The evening is introduced by  Barbro Schultz Lundestam and followed by a conversation with Olivia Plender.

LECTURE: Present Swedish Stories – Part Three: How can I resist the neoliberal development? Tuesday 20 October 2009, 7 – 9pm
At Gasworks

Swedish Stories is a series of lectures through which the artist Petra Bauer examines the current state of Swedish society from a subjective perspective. By using different examples of film and video making Petra Bauer looks to understand and analyse the changes that have taken place in Swedish society over the last few decades.

In this third part, Bauer will reflect on the role reality TV programmes play in Swedish society and will demonstrate how she thinks they are connected to the country's recent political developments. Bauer presented part one of the series in spring 2008 as part of Disclosures.

LAUNCH: Launch of A Prior Magazine #19 Wednesday 25 November 2009, 6.30 – 8.30pm
At Gasworks

Olivia Plender’s contribution for A Prior is based on Gustave Flaubert’s 1881 satirical novel Bouvard et Pécuchet and involves the participation of other artists and writers. The launch is held at Donlon Books and is accompanied by readings, live music and short films.