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Craigie Horsfield: Relation

Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA)


14 Mar 2007 to 03 Jun 2007

MCA Curatorial Liaison: Elizabeth Ann Macgregor

about the exhibtion

This exhibition spanned thirty-five years of practice by leading international artist Craigie Horsfield. Relation featured a range of media including photography, sound work, video installations and collaborative projects. It was the first exhibition of Horsfield’s work in Australia.

Born in 1949 in Cambridge, UK, Craigie Horsfield has lived and worked in Cracow (Poland), London and New York. The artist first gained attention and acclaim for his black and white photographic portraits. Taken in the 1970s and printed in the 1980s, these were large-scale, unique prints (rather than multiples) and involved extensive hand-work in the darkroom during the images’ exposure and development stages. Horsfield is one of several artists—others include Thomas Struth and Jeff Wall—whose conceptual and technical innovations helped to reposition photography at the forefront of international contemporary art practice in the late 1980s.

The principal concept that underpins Horsfield’s work is that of relation, with its dual meanings of ‘associations and connections’ and ‘the telling of stories’. The works also incorporate duration and challenge our desire for instantaneous responses. Long periods of time elapse between exposing the negatives and printing the photographs. Their creation takes place within what the artist calls ‘slow time’, a reference to the term ‘slow history’ coined by historian Fernand Braudel. Braudel argued that history manifests as silent currents whose meanings only reveal themselves in slow increments over long periods.

Since the early 1990s, Horsfield’s practice has centred on social projects. Most of these projects involve collaborations with groups of people and are the result of long encounters with the populations of chosen places. They explore the meaning of community, and have taken the form of videos, including El Hierro Conversation (2002), sound works, dialogues and publications. Since the early nineties the majority of Horsfield’s photographs have emerged from these collaborative projects. Broadway (2006), which encompasses a video installation as well as a series of photographs, depicts the faces of ordinary people from the crowds in New York in the days following the city’s September 11 terrorist attacks.

New works produced by Craigie Horsfield for this exhibition included a sound installation that was created in a temporary mixing studio that occupied the gallery space for a week prior to the opening of the exhibition, and a collaborative project called Conversation. Conversation was designed to shift our understanding of what takes place in an art museum by bringing the ideas of a city—Sydney—into the gallery spaces in the form of meetings, discussions and debates. All those participating in these events, and visitors who observed them, became part of the exhibition. This work emphasised one of Horsfield’s key concerns: the role of the audience in relation to a work of art. According to the artist, ‘All art is in some way a conversation.’

Craigie Horsfield: Relation was presented at Jeu de Paume, Paris from 31 January – 30 April 2006; Centro de Arte Moderna José de Azeredo Perdigão/Fundaçaõ Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon from 18 July – 17 September 2006 and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney from 16 March – 3 June 2007

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