embassyHACK 15 April – 06 May 2016, the Government Art Collection, London.
Bish & Matthew Hardern, Albion Voice, 2014. Single channel video. Courtesy of the artists
A national embassy is the nerve centre of a country’s diplomatic affairs. As a physical extension of the nation-state abroad, it facilitates the work of the state representatives, ambassadors and diplomats, and serves as a crucial mediating place between host and guest nations. Within the embassy lies the ‘Ambassador’s Room’ – the motherboard of diplomatic operations and decision-making. Walking into an Ambassador’s Room, one steps into an apparently banal still-life, a space furnished with highly specific and significant objects. The objects found in this room often include an official portrait of the nation’s figurehead, a visual reminder of sovereignty; a writing desk, where important decisions are made; and flags of the host and resident countries respectively, signifying respect and partnership. Though these objects may seem unremarkable, they act as double agents, serving crucial functions to represent the state body of power, empowering and reaffirming the sovereign identity.
This exhibition act as an experiment, recreating and transferring an Ambassador’s Room, usually located within an embassy, a ‘restricted limited-access’ space, into an open gallery context. ‘Restricted’, and ‘limited-access’ are fast becoming disallowed terms in this age of networks, connectivity and close-focus on border politics. Arguably, while the digital landscape has intentionally and inadvertently created more fluidity in accessing information, the secure and physical sanctum created within the government building has become more restricted. Ten contemporary London-based artists have been invited to ‘hack’ this simulacra-room and staged set, constructed from a mixture of works from the GAC and objects of everyday design, in the hopes of altering the status and meaning of the Ambassador’s Room and its contents through physical or virtual intervention. The commissioned artworks deviate from the usual decorum to propose new entry points, allowing easy access for a contemporary and mobile audience into a historically closed space.
The participating artists include Louise Ashcroft, Guy Bar Amotz, Bishi & Matthew Hardern, Juan Covelli, Juan Covelli & Neale Willis, Cosmic Latte (Juan Covelli, Andrew Kiddie & Neale Willis), Hannah Honeywill and Jasmine Johnson.
EmbassyHACK, front room view. Image: The Government Art Collection
Guy Bar Amotz, Chain Rule (2016). Two talking A4 paper, Software design: Piers O’Hanlon, Voices: Steven Glaser, Francesca Altamura, Tamar Clarke-Brown and Bar Yerlushalmi
Cosmic Latte (Juan Covelli, Andrew Kiddie & Neale Willis)*, A Recipe for Disaster (2016), Mixed media – Computer or Raspberry Pi, printer, paper, and online content