Exhibition | Uncertain Ruins | Contemporary Art at Swiss Cottage Gallery | London | Art Week

Uncertain Ruins

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Monday, 9 December 2019 to Friday, 10 January 2020
Thursday, 9 January 2020 - 6:00pm

Uncertain Ruins a site-responsive collaboration by artist Julie F Hill and Gauld Architecture that draws on the social, material and historical context of the Swiss Cottage Library in which the gallery is located. Monumental sculptures, video and photographic works respond to this context and have been made using a mix of artificial intelligence algorithms trained on astronomical datasets and related holdings from Swiss Cottage Library, to consider the library’s potential as a container for all knowledge. Scaffolding structures reference machine learning software architectures used in the construction of the artworks which increasingly produce, organise and distribute knowledge. Together they play with the notion of construction and ruin.

Hill’s new photographic series Containers documents the bindings and centre folds of various astronomy and physics books found in the library and further abstracts them using mathematical paper folding techniques. Sculpturally they explore the principles of the Modernist grid at play in the architecture, contrasted with the algorithmic and computational structures used in knowledge generation. 

Through Machine & Darkness is a 35 minute video work that responds to the increasing use of AI and machine learning in examining astronomical datasets. The video comprises images taken from the training of a DCGAN – a class of Artificial Intelligence algorithm – trained on over 45,000 images from the Hubble Space Telescope. Attempting to conjure a total view of the cosmos, the imagery produced explores the latent space of the algorithmic imagination, and how computation might come to understand the universe.

RAW Materials are a series of monumental sculptures, one of which occupies the atrium of the library, made from scaffolding and large scale RAW Hubble images taken from the training dataset of Through Machine & Darkness. The images have been scaled in such a way to emphasise the individual pixels: the individual measurements of light recorded by the telescope’s CCD’s which in turn become the raw material processed by machine learning algorithms. The reflective surface of high gloss black acrylic creates illusory moments within the installation, and alludes to the technological ‘black boxes’ in machine learning and AI.

The universe (which others call the Library) consists of playfully positioned astronomy and physics books from Swiss Cottage Library. The title is taken from first line of Jorge Luis Borges’ short story The Library of Babel, which conceives of a universe in the form of a vast library.

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A programme responding to themes of Uncertain Ruins and the context of Swiss Cottage Library accompanies the exhibition. Featuring artists Joe Banks, Paula Smolarksa and window commission by Mary Yacoob, as part of Camden Alive. 

Curator ( Name ):

Artist ( Description ): 

Julie F Hill is a British artist who employs an expanded approach to photography and image-making, creating sculptural installations that explore conceptions of deep-space and cosmological time. The astronomical image is shaped into formations that resemble uncanny meteorological or geological phenomena, creating immensities that we can walk amongst, and enter into. Enigmatic and illusory materials such as smoke or mirror act as conduits or portals, inviting us to cross a threshold to experience the unknowable. Through such environments she questions scientific images and the technologies used to construct them. Hill studied at Central Saint Martins (BA, 2004) and the Royal College of Art (MA, 2006), and is currently a Fellow in Digital Print at the Royal Academy Schools (2017–). Recent exhibitions include The Space Out of Time, Terminal Creek Contemporary/Capture Photography Festival, Vancouver, CA (2019); Of Stars and Chasms, ArthousSE1, London (2019).

Gauld Architecture is a London based architectural practice who work on a range of commercial, residential and public leaning projects that balance sensitivity for the history of a site with appropriate use of materials. www.gauldarchitecture.com 

Disinformation is an electronic music, installation art and research project, which has been described by The Guardian newspaper as producing ‘some of the most beautiful installations around’. Disinformation presented Language [as] Meta-Technology – the first Passen-gers offsite exhibition at Sluice HQ, Hackney, Nov 2018. Disinformation producer Joe Banks is a former AHRC sponsored researcher at Goldsmiths College and the University of Westminster, and is author of the critically successful research monograph Rorschach Audio – Art & Illusion for Sound produced by Strange Attractor Press. rorschachaudio.com

Paula Smolarska (b.1983, Warsaw, Poland) is a London-based artist working across sculpture and installation. She holds an MA in Sculpture from RCA (2017). Her degree show piece was shortlisted by Robin Klassnik for Matt’s Gallery/David Troostwyk Studio Award. Recent exhibitions and presentations include VR Days, Amsterdam, Degree Show RCA, Camden Art Centre (all 2017), Passengers (solo), Edinburgh College of Art, Art Dubai, UEA (all 2016), Art Licks Weekend (2017, 2016 and 2015 with Julie F Hill, Evy Jokhova and Mark Siebert). Residencies include Florence Trust Residency (2014) and Hospitalfield, PARC with Pangaea Sculptors’ Centre (both 2018). 

Mary Yacoob’s practice encompasses pen and ink on paper, printmaking, wall drawings, and vinyl floor works. She appropriates visual languages from architectural plans, maps, geological and engineering diagrams, alphabets and musical notation. She is interested in how enlarging a diagram, drawing it and taking it out of context can create visual connections, transforming a functional aid into something mysterious, architectural, spatial or monumental. The hand-made gesture, intricacy, repetition, rhythm, and systems employing order and chance, are all key aspects of her work. Yacoob is based in London and studied at Central Saint Martins and Cass School of Fine Art. Solo exhibitions include the Hospital Club, The Centre for Recent Drawing and Seven Seven Gallery. Group shows include Platform A, Gallery 46, PayneShurvell, Guest Projects, Saturation Point, Dark Matter, Galerie8 and OVADA. Residencies include Mutton Fist Press in 2019 and the AA2A residency at Camberwell College of Art print department in 2011. 

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Opening hours: Mon–Thu: 10–8; Fri–Sat: 10–5; Sunday: closed

Venue ( Name ):

Venue ( Address ): 

Swiss Cottage Gallery, (within Swiss Cottage Library), 88 Avenue Road, London, NW3 3HA 

Other shows from Passen-gers

Uncertain Ruins
12/09/2019 to 01/10/2020
Xiaowen Zhu, The Details Are Invented
07/14/2017 to 08/13/2017
Theodoros Stamatogiannis, 51.525224, -0.123894
05/12/2017 to 06/11/2017


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