Altered Consciousness

Altered Consciousness

Wren Artists, a visual arts agency based in London, introduces an exhibition of recent output from photographic artist Felicity McCabe (b. 1982) at the Great Eastern Wall Gallery, London. The second in a series of contemporary shows at the space, the selection from her current series, Archive, explores the nature of transience and memory. Using archival imagery as a starting point, the artist forms new versions of previously captured moments.

The photographer is interested in the psychological phenomenon of false memories, where human beings recall events that never happened, or misremember those that did. By taking a swift glimpse at her subject matter (archive prints) before making her response to them, she allows the notion of subjectivity to interfere with the creative process. The original, detailed composition is abstracted, minimised and replaced. In this way, still life snapshots develop into new temporal constructs. The work becomes particular to the artist’s own perception, questioning the nature and veracity of human reminiscence. She notes: “Our memories are faulty. Events that we are convinced we remember are in fact only memories of our own memories, facsimiles of things gone by. With each recalling of an event, we reconstruct each detail.”

McCabe’s source materials, once firmly cemented in their time period, are taken from national press coverage from 1940-1960. The curated selection originates from the streets neighbouring the Great Eastern Wall Gallery, causing place to become fundamental to emotive impact. The snapshots echo stories of East London Blitz spirit, wartime struggle and racial tensions. Despite these issues being deeply rooted in their time and place, they resonate with the contemporary viewer, tapping into the awareness of the next generation. The practitioner’s removal of colour is one such example of this. A nod towards the problems of integration and race experienced over the decades, Leman Street Club, July 1949 bleaches out a frame taken from a Jamaican snooker club.

Handpicked from this ongoing project as the most affecting and relevant to the locale, each work presented is printed to approximately four metres wide and retains its original name, acting as an anchor to its origins. These curatorial choices create an immersive viewing experience that allows the onlooker to enter an affecting dialogue with a transformed version of history. The next in Wren Artists’ programme is expected in 2018.

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  1. Christmas Street, December 1946, Felicity McCabe. Image courtesy of Wren Artists.