Ruth Maclennan: Anarcadia

30 July 2011 — 18 September 2011

Castlefield Gallery is delighted to present Anarcadia, a body of work by artist Ruth Maclennan set in the vast steppe of south-eastern Kazakhstan. A new publication, also entitled Anarcadia, will be launched at the exhibition opening on 29 July 2011.

Anarcadia is a 35-minute video projection, which is accompanied by a series of photographs. The exhibition also includes archive material from Kazakhstan, gathered by the artist.

Landscape and the traces of past actions that lie within it are the focus of Anarcadia. The video work, shot among the desert expanses of Kazakhstan, features two iconic characters: an archaeologist and a prospector; each of them methodically journeying across apparently empty but symbolically charged terrain. Both protagonists project onto the desert their desires and experiences, seeking to uncover its buried meanings and future possibilities.

Their parallel journeys implicitly evoke the iconography of the American West. The remote, uncharted vistas seem to offer new scope for these enduring myths to be re-enacted. Highlighting the two characters’ different and competing incentives for being there, Maclennan’s layered, often contradictory stories echo the fundamental indeterminacy of the desert landscape. Unreliable, unpredictable, even treacherous, it is still a beguiling, open-ended canvas for human hopes and dreams.

Maclennan’s recent photographic works, After Life, cast a forensic gaze on a liquid surface. Deceptive in both scale and subject, they allow associations to cling to the surface and the eye to explore the material that emerges. Another recent photographic work, Desert Mine Desert, shows the present ruin of past activity, while the archive material the artist has collected in the region highlights this industrial past.

A new publication launching alongside the exhibition, also titled Anarcadia, is designed by Secondary Modern. It features an introduction by Steven Bode, an essay by Lucy Reynolds and an interview between Ruth Maclennan and Owen Hatherley. The book also includes transcripts of Anarcadia and an earlier film work, Capital, shot on location in Kazakhstan’s main metropolis, Astana. Reflecting Maclennan’s fascination with the country, the book features video stills and location photos from each shoot and highlights her flair with imagery and her feeling for language.

Anarcadia was co-commissioned by Film and Video Umbrella and John Hansard Gallery, Southampton, in association with Ffotogallery, Cardiff and Stills, Edinburgh. Presented in association with Castlefield Gallery, Manchester. Funded by Arts Council England, with the generous support of the British Council. Additional support from the Henry Moore Foundation.

Further information on:
Ruth Maclennan is an artist living and working in London. Her work has been exhibited internationally in exhibitions and film festivals and is held in public and private collections. Maclennan also devises curatorial and collaborative art projects to enable new contexts for making, experiencing and questioning art. She has previously exhibited individually and collaboratively at ICA, London; Cornerhouse, Manchester; Kunsthalle Vienna and London School of Economics.

Film and Video Umbrella commissions, curates, produces and presents film, video and other moving- image works by artists that are staged in collaboration with galleries and other cultural partners across the UK. Since the late 1980s, Film and Video Umbrella has been at the forefront of this vibrant and expanding area of practice, promoting innovation through its support of some of the most exciting figures on the contemporary scene. During this time, the organisation has commissioned and produced over 100 different artists’ projects, ranging from ambitious multi-screen installations to shorter film and video pieces, as well as numerous online commissions.

The preview of Anarcadia at Castlefield Gallery is kindly supported by Barefoot Wines.