Con Art explores art's roots in artifice and deception, demonstrating the
ways in which art and magic share a similar goal of 'cunning and connin'
while casting a critical glance at everyday reality. Examining one of the
basic principles found in magic; sleight of hand or conjuring, the exhibition
in particular highlights the fact that both art-making and magic performance
require a willing viewer to agree to participate in creating illusion and deception.
The notion of the audience as a willing participant in what they know to be
an intentional game or illusion can be traced to stage drama in the Middle
Ages and magic performance in the Enlightenment. This idea of
viewer/audience complicity underlines the approaches taken by the
contemporary artists in the exhibition, leading to double readings and
false appearances that establish a game very close to magic, sleight of hand
or transformation. Amidst mysterious levitations, smoke-and-mirror
vanishings, and close-up chicanery emerges the notion of art as a kind of
perceptual sleight of hand which sets in motion a willful play of confidences
between viewer and spectacle.
Con Art brings together rare video works by artists including Louise Bourgeois, Arturo Brachetti, Raffaele De Ritis, Allen Ruppersberg and Jeff Sheridan as well as newly commissioned and existing work from Jonathan Allen, Anna & Bernhard Blume, Sarah Charlesworth, Christian Jankowski , Kyprianou and Hollington, Ingeborg Lüscher, Simon Patterson, Aura Satz, Allessandra Spranzi, Keith Tyson and Mark Wallinger.
The exhibition is co-curated by Pier Giorgio and Helen Varola with Carol
Maund and will be accompanied by a 72-page catalogue with texts by Vanni
Bossi, Edwin A. Dawes, Andrew Hubbard, Olu Oguibe, Raffaele De Ritis, Jeff
Sheridan and Pier Giorgio and Helen Varola.
In addition to an artist's talk by Keith Tyson, a linked film programme at
the Showroom Cinema and a Performance Magic evening hosted by live art group
Forced Entertainment. There will also be a one-day conference on Thursday 21
March, chaired by artist Susan Hiller. Extending the debate around magic and
art’s shared imaginations and strategies, this one day event will explore
ideas of illusion and deception; and examine the notion that art can be
interpreted as a hi-brow confidence trick, in which a willing audience is deceived
by artists who confer value onto hollow objects.
1 Brown Street
tel +44 (0)114 281 2077
fax +44 (0)114 281 2078
Site Gallery is a centre for the exhibition and production of lens-based & electronic media;
offering free exhibitions of contemporary art, alongside open-access darkroom and digital facilities, educational events and short courses.
Gallery Opening Times: Tuesday - Friday 11.00am - 6.00pm, Saturday 11am - 5.30pm.
About the curators:
Helen Varola is an independent curator who lives in New York. In addition to curating, lecturing and writing exhibition essays on recent contemporary art, she has published articles in such magazines as Forum International, Trans>, Neue Bildende Kunst, and Time Out New York. Her projects have received critical attention in The New York Times, The New York Observer, Art & Auction, International Herald Tribune, The Wall Street Journal, Black Book, Review, American Photo, Interview, New York Magazine, Detour, Vogue and Magic. She received her Master’s degree in art history at the University of Chicago where she studied with Thomas E. Crow. She is a curatorial advisor to Art Assets, New York.
Pier Giorgio Varola is an historian of conjuring and a professional magician. His work is based on the research and study of ancient texts on conjuring and the adaptation of ancient performing techniques in contemporary contexts. His research started in Italy in the 80’s, following in parallel the study of magic as well as of clowning. He tracked down all the ancient masters, especially among the Italian circus dynasties, trying to learn the techniques from direct sources whose roots often date in Renaissance and Commedia dell’Arte. He spent ten years travelling with one of the oldest Italian family circuses,Togni’s Florilegio. He used this time to experiment and practice his technique, performing twice daily in seven countries and languages, for audiences of every age and social contexts. This invaluable interactive experience was his basis to become clown doctor for the Big Apple Circus Clown Care Unit when he established himself in New York City. In his research, still fascinated by the relationships between magic and other arts, he is consultant for performers, historians and collectors from all over the world.