LOG OF THE QUARANTINE
Artist: JUSTIN HIBBS
I think these pieces work well with the theme of the word you gave me – ‘Day’ and the underlying theme of dis-contact / un-contact. The works on newspaper pages are from particular days of news and question how being relentlessly bombarded by so much news both connects and disconnects us…. I did this body of work for my exhibition with Gustavo ‘Between Before and After’ at Arróniz in September 2018 but these two were made after I returned from Mexico after the show. Maybe useful as this will highlight a body of work that Gus has examples of at the gallery.
‘The Lives of Others’ & ‘Issue 9185’are a pair of works from ‘The Observer’ series which take as their starting point the relentless flow of images, texts and narratives from the daily newspaper. When I began making these works, I was struggling with the question of how to go on creating artworks in the context of the increasingly disturbing events unfolding beyond the studio in the outside world; the post truth world of Brexit, Trump, global conflicts (and now the Covid19 Pandemic…) Questions such as how can we deal with the realities of the world outside? what responsibility do we have to engage with this information? …and how can we trust the information we are receiving?
The analogue world where the newspaper holds the role of regulating information for us on a daily basis is fast disappearing as newspapers become increasingly obsolete. Instead we find ourselves in a more complex and unfolding information reality – a fractured and dis-connected space, where the proliferation of information through multiple media sources is accompanied by a lack of understanding about how these sources of information are produced, operated or how whether they might be manipulated.
These pieces are a response to two particular ‘days’ of news…. ‘The Lives of Others’ was a headline that stood out to me during this project as it related to me thinking through how we engage, empathize but also consume news stories about the lives of others. The headline text is surrounded by the pattern of a security grill from a window photographed whilst I was in Mexico City.
‘The Lives of Others’ is placed next to another page made at the same time called ‘Issue 9185’ on a page from Al-Quds Al-Arabi a Palestinian owned pan-Arab daily newspaper published in London. This page shows a photographic story on the 15th May 2018 documenting the aftermath of the Palestinian protests marking the 70th anniversary of the expulsion of 70,000 people during the creation of Israel, where dozens of Palestinians were shot by Israeli forces. Making this work was a difficult and uncomfortable experience, but I kept returning to the page, which raised questions about how to address such disturbing events and how certain events keep repeating and replaying themselves over and over and our continued exposure to them begins to numb our senses to their true horror. I created a ‘vignette’ for each picture, as if each one were ‘framed’ like an intimate family portrait.
There is another text that talks about this body of work that was written by Martin Herbert to accompany my exhibition ‘Between Before and After’ at Arroniz in September 2018;
‘Hibbs, like the rest of us in these tumultuous days, has become some kind of news addict, cast into a sea of opinion and ever-updating bulletins on a world where hard-edged truth is ever harder to come by. The British newspapers since 2016 have been dominated by Brexit, a statistical unknown whose status shifts daily, as does that of the other linchpin of contemporary news, the benighted American presidency. The cry of the Brexiteers was ‘take back control’—a statement synonymous with modernism, and for which the results are already in. On some level, taking back control is what Hibbs is doing here in collaborating with the newspaper layouts, using them as the ground for subjective geometric abstractions in ink and paint. Photographs turn ghostly under fine verticals. The slant of a headline becomes a springboard for radiating lines. Battalions of nested black stripes, like fragmentary ghosts of an Albers or an early Frank Stella, take up residence on the rumpled page.
Yet the works sit between anxiety and self-soothing—Hibbs is only halfway restoring control, even as the works seek the reassurance of Euclidean form, because he’s forced to deal with what’s already on the page. He’s cooperating with chance, accepting reality as an opportunity and something that can’t be fully wiped out, rather than seeking bloody-mindedly to push wholly against it. In that respect his geometry operates at a sanguine distance from that of the modern, which sought to act as if the messy real world didn’t exist, could be erased. This outlook extends, meanwhile, to his freestanding sculptures, which look sleekly modern in some ways but are double-faced—they have the air of steely origami, entraining both positive and negative space, and they’re mirrored so that, as the viewer moves around them, she or he appears in reflection, puncturing the work’s sovereignty. You—and your attitudes, anxieties, imperfections, changeability—are in there too, unstably so, as is the work on the walls surrounding the sculpture. It is, in this respect, the same dynamic animating the newspaper works, where the world implacably pokes through as a counterpoint: crypto, luxury, male rage, weaponry.
Martin Herbert to accompany the exhibition ‘Between Before and After’ at Arroniz in September 2018.