20.09.14 – 09.11.14
The work of Runa Islam is known for looking outside a given frame in its nuanced enquiry into matters of perception and representation. She often combines a conceptual and an experimental approach, transforming, disrupting and enhancing existing visual mechanisms.
For the exhibition Anatomical Study presented at KIOSK, Islam has taken a new approach to extend her research into visual mechanisms, especially those of the film form. In reckoning with a rapidly changing climate of moving image technologies, she has found a way to reconsider and essentialise the materials of the medium beyond issues of obsolescence. Alongside existing works, a series of new sculptures and drawings dissect and analyse the medium.
In the early twentieth century, KIOSK functioned as an anatomical theatre for medical students. Engaging this history, Islam presents two existing works titled Anatomical Study (Instruments), and Anatomical Study I (2013/2014). Using the meaning and methods of such studies, the first work uses precision macro lenses to scrutinise and copy the contents of two replica seed banks onto 16 mm film through double exposure techniques. The second work considers the materials of film to be akin to elements of a body. A 16mm projector lens cast from silver retrieved from exposed film stock (one of few physical residues that remain from film’s fleeting succession of images), the work engenders an alchemical transfiguration in which old bodies yield new forms.
The new series of works for KIOSK continues in the same vein. The ‘raw’ film-silver, for example, is presented as a stock of bars laid out like the bones of a recumbent body. In addition, everyday items found in the working environment of Islam’s studio are the subject of the new sculptures made from this stock. These include a number of pencils that have belonged to the artist for many years, and an orchid plant that ‘existed’ for a long time in her studio. Whereas the dead plant and roots were incinerated in the casting process, the pencils are recast from moulds, much like a film process involving negative and positive prints.
Promoting endless permutations, Islam further instrumentalises the cast pencils to create a set of silverpoint drawings. Notably, silverpoint was a drawing technique favoured during the early Renaissance. Islam uses this unfamiliar medium tentatively, as though creating preparatory sketches in a notebook that attempt to piece together a subject. The images vary from architectural details of the space, to references to eighteenth-century anatomical wax models and self-reflexive drawings of the pencils themselves.
Alongside Islam’s works, a group of nineteenth-century hand-made wax orchids from the collection at Kew Gardens in London are displayed. These artefacts were commissioned as teaching aids in an era when photography was still nascent, much like the anatomical wax models of the same era. Considering a pre-photographic era underscores Islam’s experiments at KIOSK. Her inquisitive investigations into shifts of form – from image/s to object and back to image – open up questions about how representation wrestles with formal constraints.
Reflecting on various disciplinary methodologies – cinematographic and sculptural ones as well as the analyses of anatomical research – at KIOSK Islam makes meticulous use of separate fragments that she cuts and combines into a narrative to fit the exhibition space.
With the support of White Cube, London.
Thanks to the lenders: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, London.
Exhibition furniture designed by Sam van Ingelgem