Thames-Side Studios Gallery

Chris Thompson
Instrument

Exhibition Dates: 5-27 September 2020

The British Museum is a storehouse. Full of questionably acquired objects, its contents offer a window into the wider systems of ownership, wealth, transportation and consumptive structures embedded within their original eras and places. As an institution, its behaviour is also produced by those same structures. This is perhaps most evident in the gift shop, where one can buy plastic fridge magnet facsimiles of a Lewis Chessman knight for £3.50 (£3.15 for members).

In Season 9, episode 22 of The Simpsons, Homer Simpson becomes the Commissioner of Sanitation for the city of Springfield by making a lot of crazy promises, and with a little help from Bono. Homer devises an idealistic system that promises to fix and deal with every single spill, nasty banana peel and fashion disaster the townspeople can produce. Predictably Homer’s Odyssey blows up in his face - literally. After spending all of the department’s money, the trash refuses to be so easily managed and starts to spew out of every hole it can find. But what about my knight?

These two institutions may be bound by a sense of custodial responsibility towards our produce, waste or artefacts, but there is a crucial difference to be observed between them. Homer’s wilfully absurdist system seems almost designed to expose the agency our crap has, but my knight is a far more subtle, unintentional cypher.

Instrument is a show focused on the moments where systems of processing unwittingly generate their own criticisms. The latent irony of my magnet gives light to the cultural, economic and industrial paradigm of the moment, and its obsession with processing and reconstituting my heritage into plastic for tourist change, just as tyre bales are the product of a capitalist market trying to figure out a solution to the rubber waste it has created.

In a cultural and materialist paradigm where everything past is fodder for irony and dress-up, and everything present is waiting its turn to be shredded, discarded or repurposed, an obvious position to occupy is to wilfully exploit this framework- to inhabit those deconstructive pathologies as a method of revelation. Can I borrow Homer’s genius to swim back up stream, and reveal the neoliberal, consumptive pathologies of our world? Crucially, our capacity to recognise our cyphers at all gives rise to how those pathologies inhabit us, and are perpetuated by us, as well.

D’oh!

Thanks to the Freelands Foundation and the Gilbert Bayes Trust for making this possible.
For more information visit www.christhompson.eu and Instagram @christhomp1991
Chris Thompson A4 exhibition text.pdf

Please note that face masks are mandatory in the gallery space.

Image: courtesy the artist, 2020


Thames-Side Studios Gallery
Thames-Side Studios
Harrington Way, Warspite Road
Royal Borough of Greenwich
London SE18 5NR.

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