Command Lines – Theatrical Installation

Command Lines – Candida Powell-Williams at Void Gallery, Derry
Exhibition Launch: Friday 21 June, 6:30 – 8:30pm
Artist’s Introduction: 6pm
Performance: 7 – 7:30pm

Exhibition runs: 25 June – 24 August 2019

Command Lines is a theatrical installation of sculpture, performance and animation by artist Candida Powell-Williams. The works re-imagine the iconic tarot as a three-dimensional experiment in symbolism, action, story-telling and magical thinking. Powell-William’s installation uses the term Command Lines to frame the exhibition, insinuating systems, networks and feedback loops, control over and order of information. Her work builds on the play between performance, technology and sculptures that act as props to her fantastical stage setting calling into questions structures of reality.

Throughout the gallery there is a multitude of scales and forms of sculptures that determine how we interact with the works. The centre point of the exhibition is colourful stationary sculptural forms that are a chaotic shambles apparently poised ready for action, the space punctuated with enlarged heavy, stationary symbols. This main body of work acts as an anchor that feeds back and circumnavigates the works in the adjoining gallery spaces.

There are miniature scale versions of the same forms, ordered in 10 dioramas arranged as a Celtic cross tarot spread. The viewer is invited to peer into each proscenium discovering abstract forms, empty castles and temple-like structures, animal heads and frozen magician’s gloves. The tarot is stripped of its archetypal human imagery leaving a space to fill and pushing the symbolic to the fore.

An interactive ‘game’, answering the viewer’s question with a series of animations derived from the performance and accompanied by a poetic voice. These vignettes mix ballet and computing terminology, which, rather than giving divinatory guidance are in fact instructions for the performance. This leads the viewer back to the main gallery where the
props and costumes are waiting, as though inviting the audience to pick them up and start configuring their own imaginative reading.

The elements of performance and the sculptural props repeat and mutate across the galleries. Block sculptural forms and symbols are echoed in different media (ceramics, Jesmonite, resin, embroidery, textiles, drawing, animation) and different scales (human size and miniature), flipping back and forth creating a repetitive, self-referential loop, experimenting with positive and negative space; past and present; stationary and moving; animate and inanimate; soft and hard. The range of materials and textures reference digital pixilated landscapes rendered in the physical with apparently dissolving edges, wobbly geometry and bare the intimacy of the handmade to explore the mutability of meaning as they come together in a cacophony of voices.

The project is a culmination of research and development during a residency at London’s Warburg Institute exploring the endurance of esoteric ideas and the cultural heritage of tarot, archetypes and mutation of symbols. A longstanding interest in our attempts to navigate the Absurd led Powell-William to consider mysticism within storytelling and its
meeting point with the mundane materiality of objects.

Powell-William’s work is a response to researching the slippage that occurs between primary and secondary source material in relation to historical Artefacts. By discarding the original source and reimagining objects as a product of their interpretation she explores the consequences of retelling history and how we construct identity through objects and memory. She manipulates historical narratives, plucking references from disparate eras, folding them into the present and condensing them into a singular experience.

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