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Gasworks presents a solo exhibition by Gail Pickering, featuring two recent video works, Dissident Sunset (2007) and Hungary! And Other Economies (2006), installed specifically for the space and shown in their entirety for the first time in the UK.

Pickering has become known for her ambitious performance works which have included a six-week durational performance by a bodybuilder at Matt's Gallery, London in 2004, and a series of evolving performances as part of Here We Dance at Tate Modern earlier this year. Her collaborative work with both amateur and professional actors proposes a form of ‘scripting’ which brings together historical and contemporary references through an intertextual playfulness. The resulting scenarios switch between imposing tableaux and performing autonomy, raising questions about the nature of political and social ritual. In recent years, Pickering has extended her interest in performance to include video, which is the focus of this exhibition.

In Hungary! Pickering takes a group of hired porn actors from Marseille to the Marquis de Sade's chateau in the Luberon (South of France), a ruin now owned by fashion mogul Pierre Cardin, to enact scenes from German playwright Peter Weiss' seminal 1963 play Marat/Sade. Dressed in counterfeit retro-futuristic designs of Cardin, the actors shift between being themselves and their assigned characters, repeatedly taking turns to stage an encounter between the philosophies of the Marquis de Sade and Jean-Paul Marat.

The journey begins in Marseille in an ordinary minibus adorned with vinyl lettering reading "Pierre Cardin". Whilst on this journey the actors improvise crude interpretations of the script, incorporating their own experiences of working with porn films. On site the women act out some of the play's most political lines, offering a startling contrast to the preceding and following scenes and thus reflecting on the lateral associations found throughout the film. The actors eventually revert back to playing themselves, the men showing off their virility by doing push ups on a hot tarmac road. While the script of Weiss’ Marat/Sade draws together historical moments from both pre- and post-revolutionary France, Pickering initiates further encounters whereby the radical thinking of de Sade and Marat meets the erotised play of the porn actors in Sade’s former chateau, now site of a Cardin-sponsored theatre festival.
 
The second work in the exhibition, Dissident Sunset, engages with more recent histories of radical action and social rituals. A series of archival photographs from 20th Century dissident groups are re-staged for camera to form a playful, choreographed assemblage. Filmed in close-up within a sculptural set comprising of large cardboard props on wheels, these tableaux become embedded in the film to form a series of events in which Pickering seemingly entombs a group of actors. Similar to the process in Hungary! the actors work from specific historical references and a loose narrative with which to improvise dialogue. Their ensuing discussion increasingly reflects their distance to the political material proposed to them and they emerge as a troupe of sham anarchists. As the surrounding architectural structures start to collapse and disintegrate, they instinctively regress to self-consciously performing a ritualistic, almost carnivalesque dance for each other.

Gail Pickering lives and works in London. Recent exhibitions, performances and screenings include: Here We Dance, Tate Modern, London (2008); Neither Either Nor Or, Kunstverein Stuttgart (2008); New Work UK: The Sensible Stage, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London (2008); Hungary! and Other Economies, Galerie Jousse Entreprise, Paris (2007) and PraDAL, Matt's Gallery, London (2004).

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EVENTS

SCREENING:
Tuesday 17 June, 7-9pm
At Gasworks

Screening of excerpts from films and documentaries reflecting on Gail Pickering’s practice. Followed by a discussion with the artist and Ian White, Adjunct Film Curator, Whitechapel Art Gallery.
 
PERFORMANCE:
Thursday 26 June, 7pm
At South London Gallery, doors open 6.30pm, free but booking recommended.

Gail Pickering presents a new performance commissioned by South London Gallery as a part of One or Two Things.