Artist: Leslie Thornton
Venue: Kunstverein Nürnberg, Nuremberg
Exhibition Title: Ground
Date: April 17 – July 26, 2020
Full gallery of images, press release and link available after the jump.
Leslie Thornton, Strange Space, 1993, 4 min, color, sound, video, 1993, 01:42, (excerpt)
Leslie Thornton, Cut from Liquid to Snake (2018), 27 min, Color and Sound, HD-Video, 00:47, (excerpt)
Leslie Thornton, Ground (2020), 13 min, Color and Sound, HD-Video, 02:30, (excerpt)
Leslie Thornton, Jennifer, Where Are You? (1981), 11 min, Color, Sound, 16 mm film transferred onto video, 00:56, (excerpt)
Leslie Thornton, Peggy and Fred in Hell (1983-2016), 92 min, B&W and Sepia, Sound, 16 mm Film transferred onto Video, 08:01, (excerpt)
Leslie Thornton, The Last Time I Saw Ron, 1994m 12 min, color and b&w, sound, 16 mm film on video, 02:02, (excerpt)
Images courtesy of the artist, Rodeo, London / Piraeus and Kunstverein Nürnberg, Nuremberg. Photos by Rory Witt.
With GROUND the Kunstverein Nürnberg – Albrecht Dürer Gesellschaft is proud to present the first European institutional solo exhibition of Leslie Thornton. Thornton has worked as an artist and filmmaker for more than four decades and has become known for her body of work that moves between film, photography, and installation. In her film Ground (2020), Thornton outlines the coming into form of a reality in which the ground or base—like the ground of a painting or the physical ground that human existence has always been pulled toward by gravity—becomes undefined.
The material in the film was produced by the artist during residencies at CERN and Caltech, and stays in Los Angeles and Oslo. The lower half of Ground’s main motif sets the sprawl of Los Angeles, a place defined by the pace of its traffic, by the hustle and bustle of human activity, against a skyscape filmed at CERN, in which a scientist ambles along, describing his work and feelings. Through the use of effects, his corporeal body has been reduced to frequencies, lines, and grids. His voice resonates with humanity, “My life has been dedicated to…”, before Thornton completes the sentence off camera, “…the decay.” While he is referring to specific scientific processes, the film seems to imply another process of decay: the decay or loosening of indexical relationships through which reality has historically been consolidated. The lines that suggest his form shudder and thicken as he moves, creating an image space that oscillates elastically between depth and surface at any given time.
Later, the unedited, clearly visible hand of another scientist touches a glass front that looks onto an automated server room. No humans are allowed here, the scientist explains: skin produces dust, which could interfere with the system. The machine operates on a Cartesian plane, she elaborates. The complex and unfathomable digital infrastructure of CERN is organized along the simple spatial coordinates of x, y, and z—the same space that defines a Renaissance painting.
Ground is overwhelmingly spatial—a type of mechanical poetry that maps the anxious effects of an ambient and pulsing epistemological shift emanating from the increasing presence of machines in the organization of human perception and thought. This accelerating condition can be felt but remains largely invisible, taking the abstract and simultaneously concrete form of automated server stations, floating network frequencies, and dense, subterranean cables. Ground is brutal. It traces the endless and undefined complexity of the ongoing project of human knowledge production, while tethering its inert, latent, or abeyant effects—at times beautiful and at other times disorienting—to human existence itself.
The exhibition will contain a number of other works by Thornton from the past four decades, among them Cut from Liquid to Snake (2018), The Last Time I Saw Ron (1994) and Jennifer, Where Are You? (1981), as well as her singular 30-year project Peggy and Fred in Hell (1983-2016).
Recent solo exhibitions by Leslie Thornton include Leslie Thornton: Cut from Liquid to Snake at Rodeo, London, and SO MUCH MUCH at Unit 17 in Vancouver, both in 2018, a retrospective at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2017, and OF NECESSITY I BECOME AN INSTRUMENT at South First Gallery in 2016. Recent group exhibitions include New Order: Art and Technology in the Twenty-First Century at MoMA, New York, in 2019 and The Inoperative Community at Raven Row (2015).
James Richards and Leslie Thornton have collaborated on a number of works, exhibitions and screenings. Their most recent exhibition SPEED was presented at Malmö Konsthall (2019) and at the Künstlerhaus Stuttgart (2018). They have also exhibited at the Secession, Vienna (2018), at the Julia Stoschek Collection, Berlin (2017) and the Kestnergesellschaft, Hannover (2016). Their work has been shown at Tate Modern (2020), the Biennale de l’Image en Mouvement in Geneva (2018), the Whitney Biennale (2017), and at the Walker Art Center (2015). The material for Thornton’s new work Ground was filmed during artist residencies at Caltech and CERN in 2019 and a residency with James Richards at CERN in 2018.
Leslie Thornton was born 1951 in Knoxville, Tennessee, USA. She lives and works in New York.