A Short History of The Twentieth Century
3rd February - 12th March, 2011
"For some time I've been collecting random dates–day, month and year–from the twentieth century and painting them in gold in the original typography of the various source documents. Recently, after looking back through my copy of Eric Hobsbawm's Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century, 1914–1991, I had the consciously doomed-to-failure idea of incorporating these works into an exhibition that addresses the history of those times.
"In The Century (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2007) the French philosopher Alain Badiou characterizes the twentieth century as fatally marked by 'the passion for the real'–by a suspicious obsession with identity, unmasking copies, discrediting fakes, and identifying the authentic. Along with the inevitable rages of destruction also came the will to subtraction and purification, and Badiou speaks of Kasimir Malevitch's White on White painting as the epitome of this process. Perhaps my monochromes stained by various twentieth century text-fragments–by dates, signatures, book titles, my censored, cancelled, erased, or aestheticized paragraphs of text from Hobsbawm's book itself, and the watercolours using words culled from the list of illustrations in Hobsbawm's book and painted in a trompe l'œil effect with bits of dead flora, are a meditation on this 'passion'.
"The dead flora comes from South Korea, where I am living at the moment, and it's not such an unlikely place from which to think about the last century. For here on this Far Eastern peninsula the twentieth century lives on as a pathetic but potentially lethal relic through the ideological confrontation of North and South."
Simon Morley, January 2011
Simon Morley lives and works in England, France and Korea. His best-known academic publication is Thames & Hudson's Writing on the Wall (2003). In 2010 he edited The Sublime, co-published by MIT Press and the Whitechapel Gallery.
This is his third solo exhibition with Art First. He has recently shown with Taguchi Fine Art, Tokyo and Metis-NL, Amsterdam. His museum installation Messagerie was recently shown at the Musee des Beaux-Arts, Dijon