GS Artists: Anja Stenina

You Know What I Mean – Installation walkthrough

The work of Anja Stenina is concerned with the agency of marginalised members of society within the semiotic authority of dominant culture. 

An interview with Anja Stenina

You know what I mean – Solo show by Anja Stenina at GS Artists Swansea 2020

In this installation, the artist explores the breakdown of communication between ideological positions. “You know what I mean” exemplifies the way in which discourse is broken, limited without elaboration or resolution. She uses metaphysical personifications of the Ages of Aquarius and Pisces to symbolise antithetical ideological perspectives at a point of impasse and physically locates the viewer within the grey area between binary standpoints.


2019 UWTSD Joint Mres Degree Exhibition 

What would Mother say?

The artist presents a range of vignettes exploring aspects of the symbolic abuse that resides within our everyday lives. Seeking the myth within the mundane, she playfully re-examines situations and stories that are generally taken for granted. Positioning her work within a child-like framework of fairy tales, games and song, Anja tests the resilience of symbolic expressions of authority and dominant culture.

(…) 

It’s not the large things that send a man to the madhouse. 

Death he’s ready for, or murder, incest, robbery, fire, flood… 

No, it’s the continuing series of small tragedies that send a man to the madhouse… 

Not the death of his love but a shoelace that snaps with no time left. 

(…)The Shoelace, by Charles Bukowski


The Mule 
1.8m video piece.

The silhouetted figure of The Mule in the video is quoting the story of Pinocchio when he tells his unfortunate tale of becoming a donkey and being sold to the circus and forced to perform for the circus owner:

“Know, then, that, once upon a time, I was a wooden Marionette, just as I am today. One day I was about to become a boy, a real boy, but on account of my laziness and my hatred of books, and because I listened to bad companions, I ran away from home. One beautiful morning, I awoke to find myself changed into a donkey-long ears, gray coat, even a tail! What a shameful day for me!

I hope you will never experience one like it, dear Master. I was taken to the fair and sold to a Circus Owner, who tried to make me dance and jump through the rings. One night, during a performance, I had a bad fall and became lame. Not knowing what to do with a lame donkey, the Circus Owner sent me to the market place and you bought me.”

Quote from Pinocchio: The story of one marionette by C.Collodi

The story is told in the interwoven voices of a child, man and woman. The voices speak in a confessional, traumatised tone. The silhouetted, anthropomorphised figure appropriates the anonymous victims’ confession. The figure represents the marginalized members of society, telling a story of mundane symbolic abuse. 


Almost There…
1.35m video piece.

In this video piece Stenina looks into the disconnect of stereotypical cultural tropes with the everyday burden of living in contemporary society. She attempts to visualize the impact of the archetypical representations upon social identification. The artist explores the construction of the hero narrative and its effect on our wellbeing. Starting from performative sculpture, Stenina uses common figures such as the music box ballerina and drummer boy to present a narrative of contemporary conflict. In the video, at the first glance, figures appear to be static, but upon closer examination, the viewer can notice that the figures are balancing under tension in very uncomfortable poses. 

The soundscape accompanying the piece is a mix of the sound of a toy drummer boy,  the sound of a music box and the ambient sounds of the gym in the background.

The artist is investigating whether we are shaped by the role of the character or we have the ability to direct and step outside the story.


Congratulations!
2.29m video piece

The video piece displays the Buzzer game where a disturbing sound pops up if the ring touches the metal. In the video, an anonymous figure is playing the game, and upon the touch the buzzing sound appears with an authoritative voice (male, white, American) proclaiming:

Congratulations! You are no longer a virgin!

Congratulations! You’ve got the job!

Congratulations! You’ve got the promotion!

Stenina explores the symbolic authority of such phrases as “Congratulations!” and with the help of the toy adds tension to these phrases, highlighting their authoritative and ‘encratic nature’.


The Wheels of Abuse 
1.32m audio piece

The familiar nursery rhyme tune of the ‘Wheel on the bus’ is appropriated in the ‘Wheels of abuse’ piece, placed into a karaoke set-up. The intimate sound of a mother-like voice is singing the song with the lyrics changed into a ‘black comedy’ sketch.  The scenarios of ‘symbolic abuse’ that are commonly encountered in everyday life are sang out. 

The wheels of abuse go round and round

round and round

round and round

The wheels of abuse go round and round

all day long

The chivalrous man says let me help

let me help

let me help

The chivalrous man says let me help

all day long

The patriotic man asks where are you from

where are you from

where are you from

The patriotic man asks where are you from

all day long

The mother on the bus says boys don’t cry 

boys don’t cry

boys don’t cry

The mother on the bus says boys don’t cry 

all day long

The lady on the bus says isn’t she cute

isn’t she cute

isn’t she cute

The lady on the bus says isn’t she cute

all day long

The men on the bus say smile smile smile

smile smile smile

smile smile smile

The men on the bus say smile smile smile

all day long

The wheels of abuse go round and round

round and round

round and round

The wheels of abuse go round and round

all day long

Much of marginalisation resides in the inherent and implied, the assumed. Stenina analyses the structural relations of both inequality and domination that arguably reinforce social marginalization. The artist examines examples of ‘symbolic abuse’ within everyday life and applies Barthes’ semiotic analysis to a contemporary context. 


Jobseeker, 2014 – Jobseeker portrays the reality behind modern employment; the fear of uncertainty and the social and economic constraints on one’s professional potential.

GS Artists: Melissa Rodrigues

Melissa Rodrigues‘ work uses a variety of materials to explore issues of displacement, belonging, and cultural identity, exploring aspects concerning the movement of people across the world.
Immigration for Rodrigues means more than laws, rules, and bureaucracy; it is centrally about awareness and maintenance of equality, integrity, sense of belonging and diversity within.
Rodrigues’ work has developed with the notion of cultural identity and aims to explore and research the African descendants in diaspora, who due to living in Western cultural and societal structures are not fully aware of their ancestors’ histories but continue suffering the consequences of that same historical construction; the way they are seen and consequently see themselves is still entrenched in the bases of Western historical agenda.
Rodrigues seeks to understand the impacts of this “missing history” on people’s lives, since according to Walter Benjamin “there is no document of a civilisation that is not at the same time a document of barbarism”, having in mind that history is written by and for the victorious (dominant potency).

Rodrigues recognises that globalisation, mixture of cultures, and trade plays an important role in the confusion of one’s understanding of self and self-worth in the Western world; for that reason Rodrigues’ research in time turned to a new material, textile, as a piece that plays an important role in collective identity. Rodrigues has been exploring and researching on the routes these pieces of cloth take throughout history, their importance in our understanding of self as members of social groups, and the misconceptions about them.
In July 2019, Rodrigues graduated BA (Hons) from University of Wales Trinity Saint David with 1 st class qualification in Fine Art, . She is currently doing post-graduate studies, MA Photography, at the same institution.
A myriad of artists has influenced and continue influencing Rodrigues’ practice, including Yinka Shonibare, Kara walker, Sonia Boyce, Grada Kilomba, Sidney Cerqueira, Arthur Jafa, Zenele Muholi among others.

GS Artists: Claire Annabel Francis

Jam

GS Artists director Claire Annabel Francis‘s work examines the duality of binary structures within society and the ways of human thinking that often determines us as outside of, in opposition to or above our counterpart.

The primacy of the natural world is in many ways forgotten due to the meanings inculcated onto it, we forget that we are a part of it. For this reason, ‘nature’ features within the work as a metaphor, it is presented to the viewer with a multifaceted role addressing gender, space and place.

Hide is a current WIP taken from a previous undergraduate exploration which involves the deconstruction of a man-made fruit box, taking away its purpose and use within society. The material is pieced back together to form a hide or skin. The holes within the work are a mark of the industrial
process, joining nature and human together.

Jam is a body of work displaying assumed feminine objects (jam jars) containing ambiguous, chaotic and conceivably dangerous substances from nature, playing a subtle, sinister role within the work, disrupting the perpetuated image of the feminine as the caregiver e.g. Wife and Mother.
Footage is a section of video work documenting an experiential exhibition event which created a liminal space between the dualistic worlds of the ‘Man- Made’ and ‘Mother Nature’.

Footage – what would mother say – Claire Annabel Francis 2018 from Claire Francis on Vimeo.

A poisonous plant was deconstructed and displayed within large pods, in order to view the material visitors had to wear protective clothing. At any point, the natural element contained the chaotic potential to overcome the man-made safety equipment therefor becoming the dominant force, arguably turning the viewers into the liminal.

Refugees was an installation work looking at the notion of belonging in relation to space and place. These non-indigenous plants teeter on the edge of a precipice, leaving the viewer unsure of whether they are falling into the darkness emerging from it.

GS Artists: Tomos Sparnon

Mae gwaith Tomos yn archwilio’r hyn ydyw i fod yn ddynol. Trwy baentio, arlunio, cerflunio a dulliau eraill, mae’n archwilio perthynas dyn â’i gyd-ddyn, â’r byd, â gwrthrychau, â’i hunan ac â Duw. Ei nod yw dal y gwrthdrawiad rhwng y gweladwy a’r anweladwy, rhwng realiti a’r hyn nad yw’n real.

Gellir gweld rhagor o waith Tomos ar ei wefan: www.tomossparnon.com ac ar ei gyfrif Instagram: @tomos_sparnon

Tomos’ practice is an exploration of what it is to be human. Through different media including painting, drawing and sculpture, he explores man’s relationship with his fellow man, with the world, with objects, with himself and with God. His aim is to capture the conflict between the visible and the invisible, between reality and what is not real.

More of Tomos’ work can be seen on his website: www.tomossparnon.com and on his Instagram account: @tomos_sparnon

GS Artists: Demian Johnston

Installation detail photograph by Jeremy Gluck

Demian Johnston’s practice builds on a growing body of work with energy concentrated by its confinement – “thinking inside the box”. These ideas value spontaneity, the positioning of objects and making of marks based on inner instinct and expression.

Perverse in its initial conception the practice shows dimensions of unpredictability, naturalness, glimpses into the unconscious, dark and monotonous, allowing the viewer to become a participant in creating discourse, helping the artist try to understand his own internal dialogue and find some sense in this illogical world.

Says Johnston, “It’s time for everybody to stop and look at the world with a view to seeing who is watching us and why. It is increasingly important that people step back, look at themselves, they’re surroundings and the world.”

Installation, Volcano Theatre, 2019 Photograph by Mitja Zupanc

GS Artists: Tess Wood

Jumping Mawr, 1/04/2020. Morfa Bychan, Wales

Tess Wood’s practice aims to express and further deepen her own understanding of human interaction and social control, presenting performances to her audience in an attempt to offer them an opportunity, to experience and contemplate feelings towards topics such as gender, sexuality, power and the moments of fear, love, passion and frustration that reside within these in the contemporary day.

Jumping Mawr Resonator

Currently focusing on the underpinning of a collective frustration with social control, power structures and theories regarding the relationship of body to architectural public space. Within the last month her work has taken a more reflective sentiment relating the current lock down situation that we are experiencing to her time spent in Japan in 2017.

Make noises when you can’t comprehend it at all…

The images shared here are stills from three separate performances in which the artist uses her body to express personal emotional and physical frustration with the world. Using these landscapes and architectural spaces she utilises public and private spaces as a place where one can easily express themselves immediately. This series of performative actions is an ongoing project spanning the last five years.

Delapidated Dance, 04/03/2020 – Swansea High Street, Wales

It is a mechanism that drives me to create work. If I am told something is to be a certain way, that I must abide by a certain set of rules, I am wired, I am totally wired to understand why.

GS Artists: Abigail Fraser

Abigail Fraser

My work is an ongoing investigation into the loving vulnerability connected to the memory of a space and a place. Through using materials such as LED Lights, old television monitors and oil paint, I explore themes of domesticity such as universally recognised objects and symbols of familiarity. For example, recreating the familiar patterns of windows or carpets spanning from universally significant architectural designs such as the Vatican to a Swansea student household. For me, my work is an investigation into the potential of using perception as a material, through manipulating light as a method of triggering memory. Challenging “How close memory feels to trespass” – Edward DeWall.

This collection of ink drawings was done in response to the current Covid-19 crisis as a documentation of personal and shared experiences in this challenging time.