The Pavement and the Beach Exhibit
Paradise Row Gallery
74 Newman Street
London W1T 3DB
8 July- 13 August
‘Sous les pavés, la plage’
The group exhibition includes a range of works by twenty-three artists, including the exhibition’s curators,Guillaume Paris and Mick Finch. Among the artists present in the exhibition are the galleries longstanding artists, Margarita Gluzberg, Shezad Dawood and Mounir Fatmi – all of whom have exhibited their works in Paradise Row on a number of occasions. Nick Hackworth, Paradise Row’s founder, procured the title of the summer exhibition from a section of graffiti he found scrawled on a wall in the central quad of University College London during the recent education protests in London. The phrase, he recalls, ‘re-appeared in a ghost-like manner’ having originally been used forty years earlier in France, May 1968, on a Parisian shop wall during the largest student protests in history.
The both thought-provoking and cynical phrase, Sous les pavés, la plage – ‘Beneath the pavement, the beach’ acted as the starting point for the exhibition. It crucially defines an historical moment in history which can be seen to echo in society today.
The significance of the phrase lies within the dichotomy it sets up between the ‘pavement,’ and ‘the beach.’ On one side it brings to surface the critique of a society so exhaustingly contingent upon the manufactured world of power, efficiency, subjugation, work, consumerism and regulated thought which deposit on the symbolic ‘pavements.’ The nationally and internationally eminent image of Queen Elizabeth II’s head, present in Finch’s piece ‘Constellations 3,’ alongside the ransacked supermarket shelves in Jean-Michel’s piece ‘Super #1,’ provide subtle critiques of this aspect of society. In contrast to these pieces, the bold slogans present in Guillaume Paris’ ‘Kids’ and Steven Le Priol’s ‘Yes We Can’ stand out as forthright propagandist works with a critical message against the exhibition’s metaphorical ‘pavements.’
On the other hand, the exhibition’s ‘beach’ stands for the opposing utopian world of radical leisure, freedom and imagination. The task set up for the artists is to attempt to regain or draw on the notion of freedom wrapped up in the metaphorical ‘beach’ by provide critique of the causes of its loss. As the exhibition’s description point out, ‘The sphere of leisure and entertainment has become an arena in which power insidiously dreams itself into new disciplinary forms.’ Whether engaging with the phrase directly or with a symbolic approach, the exploration of perceptions of capitalism lodges itself in the forefront of the exhibitions aims. Each artist approaches the subject in hand from their own individual standpoint. To this end, as Nick Hackworth states, the accumulative collection of works ‘leaves the viewer to decide whether or not the artworks succeed.’
Forty years on from the unprecedented protest events of ‘68, Mick Finch and Guillaume Paris, place a political frame around the works of art present in the exhibition. In doing so, they work with the Situationist International belief that all artwork must have a political agenda. The exhibition reflects on the historical shift that has undercut the utopian hopes encapsulated in the slogans of May ’68.
‘The Pavement and the Beach’ will run from 8th July to 13th August.