- Grace Wales Bonner @ Serpentine Gallery
Grace Wales Bonner brought together works by those who had had influence on her artistic and personal development, with or without direct collaboration. Each artist built a kind of shrine, an altar, representing their engagement with Black experience, Black aesthetic, spirituality, transcendentality, even magic – lived, moved, meditated upon. I still remember the unusual feeling created by the premise of the show and the interaction of artworks with the gallery space. The closest synonym to that would be a ‘rise’.
2. Libita Clayton @ Gasworks
Quantum Ghost was Libita Clayton’s memorably thoughtful and transportative solo exhibition. Based on the archival research in Cornwall and Namibia, two mining locations tied together in Libita’s family history, the artist made photograms of archival and personal objects and a sound installation spilling over a thick layer of gravel, warm and dangerous with red light. The crush of tiny stones under my feet and the melancholy, deep time soundtrack surrounding the gallery gave me the most; the latter, playing from five speakers mounted on long poles, ended up evoking a kind of (post)crucifixion scene in the captured pictures.
3. Jesse Darling @ Tate Britain
Foam, straps, cabinets, aka materials and objects that commonly serve as support, were used to constitute the main body of Jesse Darling’s works in this truly fantastic exhibition. Subverting ideas of assistance, vulnerability and disability, as well as power structures, the wild and the other, the artist’s research and commitment saturated a show which was outstanding in its meticulousness and in allowing the key questions reverbate through the entire display in many intriguing ways.
4. Anna Maria Maiolino @ Whitechapel Gallery
The sheer breadth of techniques and processes the artist has explored in her art practice – from kneeding clay to making films & photographs to threading paper – is impressive, yet the exhibition looked neat and minimalistically curated. Maiolinos’s focus has been on art making that is political, conceptual, defiant and unspectacular. The highlight here for me was her series Photopoemaction (Photo-poem-action) that amalgamates different art forms and deals with the repression of a female body under Brazilian dictatorial/patriarchal regime.
5. Faith Ringgold @ Serpentine Gallery
There was so much struggle, such fierce hope and resistance in Faith Ringgold’s work, such honest grappling with issues intersecting the personal, the structural, the historical and the contemporary. The artist is also a well known activist fighting for gender and racial equality; her works were filled with her protest underneath which lay unrestrained envisioning of a fairer, more sensible world.
6. Oreet Asheery and Jo Spence @ Wellcome Collection
The show excelled at staging an interplay between the two artists and elevated a frail, sick body to be something to properly engage with instead of lament or fear. While confronting this subject matter could not have been easy, Jo Spence’s photomontage in which her body floats in a summer field/pool of water and Oreet Ashery’s new commission about her aging dad were sober, loving and graceful. Every body has a position in the political and digital spheres; every life unfolds according to what is open and what is denied to it according to its class, gender, nationality or ethnicity. Particularly one that is unwell, most definitely one that is dying .
7. London Contemporary Music Festival 2019 @ Ambika P3 Gallery
The final evening of LCMF 2019 featured, among others, the Canadian poet CA Conrad who read from a number of their books (including the amazing The Book of Frank), visual artists Gabriela Hirst and Marianna Simnett (really enjoyed her 2019 moving image piece The Bird Game) and new music commissions by Angharad Davies and Burrows & Fargion. The night finished with Laraaji playing live music. Well curated, highly enjoyable – I will be back.
Some other favourite 2019 moments – Carey Young’s Palais de Justice at Towner Art Gallery, a muggy day in Brighton, rehearsing for David Lang’s the public domain, Claudia Rankine’s lecture, the closure of all museums in Budapest during my stay, two photos from my Finnish friend Henna capturing a foggy forest and her dog eating berries but omitting a moose carcass nearby, the interiors of Trinity College Library in Dublin, a lighthouse spotted whilst walking up on the cliffs, Pipilotti Rist at The Louisiana in Copenhagen, Art Night London’s commissioned of sound works played in a church, some good reads, including ‘Desperately Seeking Susan’ by Terry Castle, Metahaven’s essays on e-flux and Fred Moten’s thoughts on voice and the collective, Internet memes (!) and animals who temporarily entered my life: Ellen’s giraffe earrings, horses we drew on post-it notes, a sheep at YSP, a cat and a bird featured in Webb Ellis’ film commission by Film and Video Umbrella/Jerwood, deer or something drawn on the walls of Margate caves, a tiny stinky puppy Luna who sleeps curled up on anybody’s chest and mice on London Underground.