Tavares Strachan: There is Light Somewhere

18 Jun –⁠ 1 Sep 2024
Hayward Gallery, London

They were all assembled there. Not purely a history but an assembly of the dead with a sense of voices being released. Voices from the deep. What the exhibition presents is the possibility of releasing these voices in a rich tapestry of becoming. We can see Nina Simone, both as semblance and mask, but where is her song and voice. Nowhere, everywhere: it follows us in an imaginary space of the unrealised beyond. There are spaces here of the absolute, black spaces, which arrive and depart before and after the image. History is condensed there, in these black holes. All these utterances all condensed into this deepest of all recesses, which gives rise to the possibility of an infinite space of writing and memory traces.

Inner Elder (Nina Simone as Queen of Sheba), 2023 Ceramic 39 3⁄8 H x 23 5⁄8 W x 23 5⁄8 D in 100 x 60 x 60 cm. Courtesy of the Artist and Marian Goodman Gallery.

Strachan said that he wasn’t interested in space without time, especially the time of the yet to come. The show reverberates with echoes of the yet to come. We are not assembled to hear voices of the dead but to hear songs of the future.

Installation view of Tavares Strachan: There Is Light Somewhere. Intergalactic Palace, 2024. Photo: Mark Blower. Courtesy the artist and the Hayward Gallery.

Imagine an infinite library. It is on the walls or free standing in space. Are we being looked at? The Queen of England in conversation with the Queen of Sheba, everything is being told as if twice over. What has been hidden, then finding release into another kind of light. Is this a history of light, after all light is required to be seen and to see.

Arise King Tubby and a new possibility of editing sound. You are centuries old now, monumental, like those Egyptian heads trapped within the British Museum. Museums knows how to assemble the dead because things are written in advance of appearance. There is good order to all of this and anything that might be heard is rendered mute. For there to be a release from this schema, there needs to be another apparatus with which to present, a multi-dimensional reassembly. We need King Tubby’s sound system to hear many voices at the same time, another spacing of sound.

Installation view of Tavares Strachan: There Is Light Somewhere. Intergalactic Palace, 2024, and Ruin of a Giant (King Tubby), 2024. Photo: Mark Blower. Courtesy the artist and the Hayward Gallery.

A man and a woman are released into the space of the gallery. They are without name. How can voices from the future be named anyway? There voices possess a purity of the empty word that clears the way. Was it the great poets of the Tang Dynasty founded their poetic vision on the difference between the full and empty word? It survives within the circulations of these performers, but with a celestial echo.

Next to this is the voice of Gil Scott-Heron, ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’. We are reminded that America was divided in the modern period between the imported European cultural matrix of an open future and an Afro-American figure of hip. Gil Scott-Heron was hip which means that he saw things differently. Hip predates the imported version of modernity and is therefore a different memory system that dates to the 1700’s with the slave system. The original word is hipi which means to open one’s eyes. To be hip is in some way to be party to the process of circulating voices and repeating songs. The language for doing so was disguised, secret, caught within the nuances of the offbeat, or a beat skipped altogether. Hip entered the mainstream through music, speech, poetry, and gesture as both rupture and rapture. Hip was sensual and dangerous, always on the move, breaking the boundary lines that might patrol all the lines so neatly in place.

So, this assemblage of works is possessing a sense of stories untold, of limits being explored, of cross overs even cross dressing, voices recorded and dispersed, narratives told in new ways, fragments and montages presented, diagrams and layers all striving to draw connective tissue into the arrest of figures. All of this calls upon the faculties to open the valves of sense and to be alive to all the criss-crossing of forms and idioms.



Text by Jonathan Miles

Edited by Michelle Yu


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