Stranger Than Fiction

02.04.2012 | Art , Blog , Culture | BY:

The time of the YBAs feels like an eon ago. It’s a feeling galvanised by the simmering of retrospectives for artists who were part of the irreverent gang. Last year saw a retrospective of Tracey Emin’s work at the Hayward and for 2012 it will be hard to avoid Damien Hirst, once his show hits the Tate Modern this week.

Meanwhile at the Whitechapel, Gillian Wearing is the subject of a major retrospective of her work. Wearing as an artist will be forever tied to the golden years of the Nineties; winning as she did, the Turner Prize in 1997 as New Labour and a new focus on British culture came to the fore.

Her work also documented the change in how individuals engage with society. With its confessional quality, Wearing’s work has long negotiated the lines between public and private.

Influenced by Seventies documentaries, she has a history of taking private individuals and unveiling them as objects of interest. Her ability to persuade subjects to make private secrets public foreshadowed the reality TV generation, proving fact is every bit as beguiling as fiction.

Gillian Wearing is at the Whitechapel Gallery until 17 June 2012


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Heart of Darkness

01.09.2011 | Art , Blog , Culture | BY:

Artist Gillian Wearing has said, “I’m always trying to find ways of discovering new things about people, and in the process discover more about myself.” In her film and photography work, the self-confessed reality TV-junkie has always probed the psychological secrets of her subjects.

On release from Friday, Wearing’s first full-length film is no less an exploration of the workings within. Self Made is the distillation of hundreds of individuals who responded to an advert she placed in newspapers and job centres saying, “Would you like to be in a film? You can play yourself or a fictional character. Call Gillian.”

A process of auditions resulted in five non-actors, each with their own fears and anxities, whom she set to work with a London method-acting teacher. At once documentary, artwork, social experiment and performance project, Self Made is cathartic and uncomfortable viewing.

The audience witnesses the film’s “actors” being pushed to the limits of self-exposure. Reality and acting finally blur to take the shape of portraits of people, lost in the search for their own identity. Wearing’s film is a work of art, with each character delivering the performance of their life. But it’s a journey for her audience too, who are unlikely to walk away unscathed.

Self Made, directed by Gillian Wearing is at selected cinemas from 2 September 2011.

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