Till the stars turn cold

24 January – 14 March 2015

Glasgow Sculpture Studios presented an exhibition of new commissions and recent works by six contemporary artists curated by Kyla McDonald and Laura McLean-Ferris. Till the stars turn cold was an exhibition that began with a conversation about the use of objects and bodies for carrying speech. Dolls, technological masks, lip-synching, hired bodies, concrete tongues, incendiary fonts, erratic speech and various pop songs feature in this exhibition, the first version of which took place at S1 Artspace in Sheffield, as part of the S1 Invites series.

Based on the idea that humans scramble to adjust their speech to suit new markets created by technological developments in media, the exhibition’s title is taken from a pivotal scene from Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly’s 1952 film Singin’ in the Rain, set during Hollywood’s transition from silent movies to talking pictures in the late 1920s, when the rich warm vocal tones of aspiring actress Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds) are dubbed onto footage of the beautiful, yet shrill, star actress Lina Lamonte (Jean Hagen), as she delivers her line “our love will last till the stars turn cold”.

This second version of the exhibition emphasised the difficulties of speaking in an atmosphere of publicity, acknowledging current and historic tensions between public and private space. Several of the key figures in the exhibition are pop stars or popular figures and with a significant public voice. Tyler Coburn’s Somdomites (2012) is a poetry work made in a flickering, psychedelic flame font that makes it near impossible to read (a readable copy of the text is available behind reception). The title and the subject of the poem is an incendiary misspelled note left for Oscar Wilde at his private members club, a note that begins chain of events leading to Wilde’s public trial and imprisonment. In Josh Kline’s Forever 48 (2013) a newly developed technology for digitally layering Whitney Houston’s face onto the face of an actor is used to restage the singer’s infamous Diane Sawyer ‘crack is whack’ interview with some unnerving additions to the script that appear to refer to her continued existence. Cally Spooner’s newly commissioned essay On Facilitation (The New Elvis) (2015) considers Milli Vanilli’s infamous lip-synching scandal as one example of increasing technological dependency in a world governed by marketing, whilst a recent video Baby I Got Better Things to Be Doing with my Time (2014) sees a dancer in a high fidelity, high production studio failing to show up and deliver on her pop video promise.

A series of new commissions variously refuse public speech or emphasise interiority. Megan Rooney’s A Petit Maison (2014) is an installation of pushed-together mattresses, creating an intimate, drowsy platform attended by soft feminine pillows sculptures with features accentuated by wigs, heavy lashes and full lips. In an audio work on white Sony Discmans Rooney liltingly summons bodies in moments between speech – watching, touching, sleeping, eating, thinking. Kathryn Elkin’s The Passion, Collage #2 (2015) is a new video of a never-quite-arriving performance, thematically covering observed and unobserved behaviours, and forms of afternoon erratic speech made behind closed doors, amidst continual restarts and alternate versions. Michael Dean’s two sculptural environments including n (Working Title) and N (working title) (2014), two letters of a visceral, physical alphabet of concrete tongues lolling over bread, accompanied by others crushed under the weight of MDF or used as paperweights for a diminishing book: a dictionary of sounds that refuse the possibilities of speech, a guide to the language of a gagged protest, or even a tongueless mouth.

This exhibition was a partnership project with S1 Artspace, Sheffield borne from an invitation to the curators to participate in their S1 Invites series. It was presented at S1 Artspace from 04 October – 06 December 2014.

The exhibition was generously supported by Creative Scotland, Arts Council England, The Elephant Trust, The Henry Moore Foundation, The Modern Institute and anCnoc Whisky.