The Current Situation by Ben Lord
5 August 2014
A vast wire representation of the world we live on hangs silently on the wall of the main gallery at New Art Exchange. It's a sculpture that waits in anticipation every day until the 7th September for your interaction and participation. It wants to be explored and used , and as many visitors have already mentioned - it will immediately confront you and draw you into an internal dialogue about how, who and why the world came to be divided, how it fluctuates, which borders and countries are important personally and how these decisions and history effect our own stories.
Maps of the world offer insights into how different cultures and era's see themselves. Maps that distort the world for political power, personal gain and religious viewpoints are how we usually come to know the world. As Yara's artwork often proves, maybe we should always challenge where we source our information... take a look at the Gall-Peters projection; a map that reflects the true scale of countries and continents. If like most people you were educated using standard political maps; the size of Africa and South America might surprise you!
This map likes to be tampered with! Two weeks ago the technicians were back and hard at work moving and adding borders. Like borders themselves, the gallery was closed whilst the work took place, and like the political world - the next day the map had changed. The political world and how we see borders with other countries is and has been forever in flux. Some of the most vigorous and animated debates with visitors to the show obviously come from vested interests in political movement and contention of shifting borders in the recent news. As this piece embarks on a national tour next year - first to Wolverhampton Art Gallery, I wonder how many times the technicians might have to close the gallery and work diligently to change the world over night? In the UK alone, the Scottish border might have very different connotations in the very near future!
Yara El-Shebini's work is here to engage you on a serious social-political level, but like all her fantastic interactive artwork it would also like to entertain you! - I haven't mentioned that the piece is a game! A giant buzz wire to be navigated with caution... or if you prefer, with all the joy of going to a new country to explore! Where have you travelled before? Where would you like to go? What do you want to know more about?
At the moment the sculpture is quiet, sitting silently as the earths continents (seen from space) would without human intervention... all it needs is playing with and once more this dramatic sculpture will come to life as human history buzzes away under the guidance of your hand. How will you navigate your world view after playing with the world borders? Come down to the New Art Exchange and make some noise! But be warned...It's loud!
- Ben Lord