Image: Zoe Williams, Ceremony of the Void, 2017, installation and performance in David Robert Art Foundation Studio, 7 Sept 2017. Thanks to Rochester Square for supporting in kind the production of ceramic works. Courtesy the artist and Galerie Antoine Levi, Paris. Photo: Dan Weill
10 November - 15 December 2017
For her first solo exhibition in Italy the artist presents Morsa . 'Morsa' is derived from the Feminine of the Latin 'Morsus' which means 'biting' or 'a bite', as well as in modern Italian, 'she was bitten', or to hold in a 'grip', 'a vice'. With the image of this female gendered bite, and the morsel or the fragment in mind Williams shows here for Morsa a collation of ceramics, videos and a soundtrack which were initially created for Ceremony of The Void, a recent large-scale performance commission by the artist at David Roberts Art Foundation, London. The performance took the form of a voluptuous banquet, where visitors were invited to experience a fantastical immersive landscape involving artist-made delicacies, musicians, ten women performers, video projections, costumes and ceramic sculptures. The players moved around the space in latex costumes, designed by H Y D R A Sartorial Latex, feeding each other and drinking light yellow liquor from a central ceramic fountain, produced by the artist and Rochester Square Ceramics. Part tableaux vivant, the performance teetered on the edge of the grotesque to explore notions of collective consumption, power exchange, pleasure, gluttony and ritualised behaviour patterns. Serenaded by a semi-improvised score from musicians Viki Steri (Cello), Dario Papavassiliou (Santur) and Patchfinder (Electronics), the performers indulged in a carnivalesque and at points overtly sexual scene. Fragments of this event and the soundtrack can be seen in the video presented here at Studio Amaro.
The re-imaging of these morsels from Ceremony of The Void, allow for a new encounter with the works which although still performative allows the pieces to be given a second life as artefacts instead of props. This process of reconfiguring works in order to imbue them with a sense of plurality is a vital part of the artist's working process.
Zoe Williams’ practice incorporates a range of mediums including moving image, photography, ceramics, painting, events and performative based work. Through these elements she is primarily concerned with creating immersive instances and environments which, holding a veneer of seduction, seek to access the cerebral through sensual experience. She is therefore interested in the creation of objects and spaces which ‘perform’, in turn implicating the viewer in their sensorial dialogue.
Her work sets out to implement an irreverent interchange between polarities such as eroticism, craft and embellishment, notions of disgust, excess and hedonism and the histories of artefacts and their materialities. Through the exploration and cross contamination of these often cosmetically tangential influences Williams wishes to open up conversations around the pressures of power, the politics of sex and the economics of production. Consequently, she is concerned with exploring and developing a relationship and mergence between animate and inanimate, histories, objects and artefacts. In order to enforce the sense of an uneasy temporal fusion of epochs and materialities and to mobilise a subtly transgressive dialogue, which sets out to confuse the erotic and the abject, the synthetic and the natural as well as the cared and the profane.
Credits for Music, performers, costumes and supporters:
Musicians: Patchfinder, Viki Steiri, Dario Papavassiliou. Performers: Mensah A. Bonsu, Freya Field-Donovan, Pegah Tahmasebi, Susu Laroche, Deniz Unal, Nadja Voorham, Tenko Nakajima Glenewinkel, Sarah Hartnett, Cicely Travers. Thanks to in-kind supporters of the performance Ceremony of the Void: perfume provided by Nishane, Istanbul; costumes by H Y D R A Sartorial Latex; ceramic works produced by Rochester Square; and Suze Saveur d’Autrefois liqueur provided by Pernod-Ricard. Thanks to DRAF Galleries Circle and Arts Council England for supporting performance at DRAF.
ARTIST’S NOTES on Ceremony of The Void, :
The title Ceremony of The Void, is taken from a Medieval term for a banquet: prior to the invention of dessert, guests would stand and drink sweet wine and spices after a meal whilst the table was ‘voided’.
With this image of consuming in mind, I would like to present a vignette: the Ancient Greek festival Thesmophoria, restricted to women. During the festival, the secret rites included throwing genitalia-shaped breads, piglets and other fertility objects into a pit of snakes. Sometime later, the decomposing remains were retrieved by the women, and placed upon altars alongside cakes in the shape of snakes and phalluses.
The women performers of Ceremony of the Void are all from my extended network of friends, and each of their ideas have fed into the piece through shared dialogues, extended or short. In this sense, the piece has been made in collaboration with the performers, the musicians and H Y D R A, who made the costumes. My role has been to create a setting in which our individual and collective agencies can negotiate, relinquish and play with power. I wanted there to be a sense of deliberation and of the giving over of control – generosity, community and shared dialogues have made this work possible.
Thanks to all who have made this possible including Dario for baking of the votive breads, Jessie for glazing help, Amy Gwatkin for filming the yellow liquids, New Noveta and Rochester Square as well as DRAF and many others.
Zoe Williams (b. 1983 in Salisbury, England) lives and works in London. Selected solo exhibitions include: Opening Times, online artwork commission, 2017; Pel, Galerie Antoine Levi, Paris, 2015; Movements in Love, Galerie Antoine Levi, Paris, 2014; You Consume Me, Kunstforeningen GL STRAND, Copenhagen, 2014; Soft Paste, The Studio warehouse Gallery, Glasgow, Scotland (2013); A Skvader, OUTPOST and The Contemporary Arts Society, Norwich Castle, Norwich, England (2010); The Flight of O, Spike Island, Bristol, England (2010); Selected group exhibitions include (X)-A Fantasy, David Roberts Art Foundation, London, 2017: Sex Living – New Noveta residency fundraiser, London,2016; Centers of Indetermination, SixtyEight Art Institute, Copenhagen, 2016; Skins,Ellis King, Dublin, 2016; Tender Touches, Austrian Cultural Forum, London, 2016; Paris Internationale 2016, Booth with Galerie Antoine Levi, Paris; Chateaux Double Wide, Glasgow International, 2016; H Y P E R C O N N E C T E D, MMOMA, part of 5th Moscow International Biennale of Young Artists, 2016. Williams is represented by Galerie Antoine Levi, Paris.
Photo: Maurizio Esposito