London-based artist Gayle Chong Kwan‘s “Anthropo-scene” is a multi-layered installation at Bloomberg SPACE that explores the built environment – and the resultant waste – in relation to the City of London. Fantastical, large, wall-based photographic panoramas are created from London’s lost buildings – as well as contemporary waste. Chong Kwan’s installation concentrates on this small geographical area to explore our footprint and its effect on the landscape through time and space, as a simple way of bringing home a global issue – that the planet has been irrevocably marked and changed by our impact on it.
Chong Kwan juxtaposes contemporary materials with historic and archaeological objects, mixing excavation and construction, ruin and renewal, and confounding their chronology in order to question the idea of posterity. Installations in the gallery recall stacks of archaeological drawers, adding a further historical dimension.
The shift in the relationship between humanity and nature further complicates distinctions between artificial and natural, and real and imaginary – questions raised by Chong Kwan‘s installation. Waste is not just “matter out of place,” a definition first given by Lord Palmerston in the mid-nineteenth century, but also calls into question the links between clean and dirty, wanted and rejected, inside and outside. The early uses of the word reflect its Latinate etymology – “waste” is derived from “vastus,” giving waste the same Latin root as the word “vast” and meaning spaces that are void or immense. The exhibition admits this temporal nature of waste, suggesting places so large, empty or lacking in utility that they bring to bear ideas of space in limbo and out of synch with human activity and proportion.
Ultimately, however, whilst Chong Kwan’s exhibition confronts the viewer with the reality of the concept of waste, there is also an underlying positive message. The stark presentation allows the viewer the opportunity to consider propensity to change, to transgress from excessive and, for the most part, thoughtless consumption, and in turn, enlighten their outlook on the impact that humanity has on the planet. Chong Kwan challenges the viewer to accept the idea that sustainability is a valid measure for the future, and that change is not only necessary but also progressive.
Chong Kwan’s exhibition for Bloomberg SPACE is the second in the 2015 series “The Homecoming,” a programme of four projects by Adam Dant, Gayle Chong Kwan, David Blandy and Melanie Manchot, which explore and respond to the history and architecture of the City of London.
Gayle Chong Kwan, Anthropo-scene, 10th April – 27th June 2015, is open Mon – Sat, 11am- 6pm, at 50 Finsbury Square, London EC2A 1HD. For more information, go to www.arts-co.com.