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Luke Fowler - Serpentine Gallery

Exhibition preview

THE Serpentine Gallery is presenting the first UK survey of the work of the respected film artist and musician Luke Fowler (b. 1978), a central figure in Glasgow’s vibrant art scene – from May 7 to June 14, 2009.

Fowler’s experimental films focus on meticulously researched subjects, including vanguard thinkers and counter-cultural figures, such as maverick psychologist R.D Laing, post-punk musician Xentos ‘Fray’ Bentos, the conservationist Bogman Palmjaguar and the English composer Cornelius Cardew, a founding member of the Scratch Orchestra.

In 2008, Fowler was the winner of the inaugural Jarman Award for artist film-makers, presented by Film London and More4 in partnership with the Serpentine Gallery. This exhibition will include the screening of Fowler’s 3 Minute Wonders commissioned by More4 as part of the Award, which will also be broadcast on Channel 4.

Fowler knowingly references his precursors in film and documentary making. His work explores the limits of documentary film-making, and is often linked to the British Free Cinema of the 1950s. Combining new and archival footage, interviews and photography with densely-layered soundtracks, his work presents a critical response to the idea that documentary film can offer us a single objective truth.

However, Fowler moves beyond simply referencing the work of his predecessors. Intuitively applying the logic, aesthetics and politics of his subjects onto the film he is constructing about them, he creates atmospheric, sampled histories that reverberate with the vitality of the people he studies.

Key works include Pilgrimage From Scattered Points (2006), which focuses on the English composer Cornelius Cardew, whose avant-garde Scratch Orchestra celebrated the idea that ‘anyone can play’. In this work, Fowler examines the conflicts that developed within the group which led up to it disbanding, combining archival video clips, photographs, interviews and previously unreleased music recordings.

The Nine Monads of David Bell (2006) is an investigation into the world of David Bell, a resident of the psychiatric refuge Kingsley Hall, which was set up by rebel psychiatrist RD Laing. Fowler’s installation includes audio recordings that document the changing psychological states of Bell, as well as a film of re-enactments of Bell’s dreams. The installation includes a variety of works on paper, including newspapers, which Bell used as writing paper, his notebooks, and photographs of Bell and other residents of Kingsley Hall.

The exhibition will also include a highlight of the 3rd Yokohama Triennial, Composition for Flutter Screen (2008). A collaborative work with Japanese sound artist Toshiya Tsunoda, the film focuses on simple objects or phenomena seen under continually changing conditions. This new work, re-configured especially for the Serpentine Gallery, represents a new direction in Fowler’s use of sound and the moving image.

Collaboration is a key element of Fowler’s process and he himself moves fluidly himself between the roles of artist, curator, historian, film-maker and musician. He is a part of the experimental music scene through his bands Rude Pravo and Lied Music, and he runs the SHADAZZ multimedia platform whose activities include the production of LPs in collaboration with other musicians and artists.

Luke Fowler has exhibited internationally in group exhibitions such as the 3rd Yokohama Triennial (2008), Prague Biennale 3, Prague; Rec. Space, Berlin; East International, Norwich and ‘Organizing Chaos’ at PS1 Contemporary Art Center, New York (all in 2007). He has had solo exhibitions at Kunsthalle Zurich (2008); White Columns, New York (2006); Supportico Lopez, Naples (2004); Cubitt Gallery, London (2003); Casco Project Space, Utrecht (2001) and Transmission, Glasgow (2000).

The exhibition is curated by Julia Peyton-Jones, Director, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Co-Director, and Sophie O’Brien, Curator, Serpentine Gallery. A catalogue will be published to coincide with the exhibition, with an essay by Will Bradley and a conversation with the artist by Stuart Comer.

Serpentine Gallery, Kensington Gardens, London, W2 3XA