No Letters investigates the dissemination of public information through various forms of reportage, carried out on both a local and a global level. Each contributing artist has made work that seeks to debunk the way we receive news of current affairs, gossip, advertisements and everyday instructions, revealing the truths obscured beneath the familiar yet effective tactics of distraction and deception employed by the media today.
Ian Breakwell | Leigh Clarke | Lucy Harrison | Dick Jewell
No Letters is the third in a series of interlocking projects organised by the artist Leigh Clarke. The book and exhibition borrows their title from the first headline spoken by the spoof newsreader in Ian Breakwell's 1980 film, The News. Breakwell’s presenter, broadcasting from a local TV station, delivers a series of mundane news items, including stories about old people leaving an auditorium and reports about the sudden appearance of holes in the road. As well as implicitly calling up the issue of the relationship between visual and textual images, the title No Letters alludes to the fact that the first draft of the book’s running text went astray in the 2007 postal strike; fortunately its author had retained a copy of his work.
Ian Breakwell’s combination of found newspaper articles and handwritten text in the 1969 Diary and the for-mentioned film The News, show Breakwell’s extensive intrigue in the banality of modern life through various forms of reportage. The 1969 Diary is one of the artist’s earliest multi-media entries into his life-long diary that he obsessively worked on until his death in 2005.
Leigh Clarke’s paintings communicate good news out of bad news. He has created a font out of negative headlines used to advertise the Hackney Gazette and then made news about positive happenings that occur everyday in the area. The work twists the media-tactic of scare mongering to sell news on its head.
In Library Bingo by Lucy Harrison, the artist replaces bingo calls with library book titles from the Lincolnshire Libraries Collection in the North Parade Social Club, Skegness. Reclaim the Night is a documentation of a walk taken in 2006 in Leeds, retracing the steps of the original 'Reclaim the Night' women's march in 1977. The campaign was initiated in response to the police advice during the time of the Yorkshire Ripper murders that women should stay indoors after dark, and called for safer streets and an end to 'curfew mentality'. The 2006 walk was in the company of Al Garthwaite, organiser of the 1977 march, and Katy Rochester, curator at Leeds City Art Gallery.
In the work The Unexpectedly Iconic, Dick Jewell continues to confront us with his investigations of found imagery by exhibiting an Evening Standard found in his toilet selectively defaced by his young daughter, Raphaela. Queen Emily I cross-fertilizes two stereotypical reprographic images of class extremes to express his idea of the monarchy of the future. In Cosmo/Babies, Jewell exposes the fact that Cosmopolitan magazine never publishes images of babies by combining Cosmopolitan covers with photographs of infants.
Conor Kelly’s film Gazette uses the cassette recordings of elderly volunteers who read the news in the Hackney Gazette for the blind or partially sighted. With the audio of his elderly collaborators Kelly has revisited the site of these reports and has collected footage much like a lo-fi TV news crew who frame their cameras on the site where we know the horse has already bolted.
Bob and Roberta Smith’s hand written slogans project an instantaneous truth about the newspaper image underneath. The works peel back the layers of tabloid journalism, revealing his own take on the unrealistic, over-exaggerations of daily journalism in what he calls Newspaper Poems.
Peter Suchin is an artist, critic and curator. He has contributed to numerous British and international journals, including Art Monthly, Art Press, Art Review, Frieze and Mute. As part of his contribution to No Letters, Suchin has included a miniature exhibition, Planchette, curated by Suchin in 2007 and presented within a mechanical display device or "Pagivolt". The selected artists are Vic Browne, Mik Godley (with Graham Lester George), Matt Hale, Lee Holden, Lizzie Hughes, Liane Lang, Stephen Lee, Pat Naldi, Sarah Sparkes, Jo Stockham, and Suchin himself. An explanation of the work is available in the exhibition.
The book “No Letters” is available from the gallery and is supported by The London College of Communication and LOKAAL01, Breda.
Image right: Ian Breakwell, Episode in a Small Town Library, 1970
What: No Letters - group exhibition
Where: Nettie Horn, 25b Vyner Street, London, E2 9DG
When: Fri 21 Mar – Mon 21 Apr 2008
Open Wed - Sun 12 - 6pm
Preview: Thu 20 Mar 2008, 6 - 9pm
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