Alien Nation explored the relationship between science fiction, race and contemporary art.
Manchester Art Gallery
Saturday 17 March 2007–Monday 7 May 2007
For this exhibition, twelve contemporary international artists used science fiction and extra-terrestrial forms to explore racial difference as a metaphor for the threat of the outsider. The artworks included film, sculpture, photography and multi-media installations.
Much has been written about the connection between sci-fi cinema of the 1950s and ‘60s and the Cold War, where fear of invasion, communism and nuclear war was played out in films that projected the anxieties of the present onto the future. In recent years many artists have similarly used science fiction and extra-terrestrial forms as a way of exploring racial difference and as a potent metaphor for the threat of the outsider.
Alien Nation presented the work of twelve contemporary international artists all of whom explore themes of ‘otherness’ and ‘difference’ through the language and iconography of sci-fi. The witty and provocative artworks on display exposed a disturbing contemporary narrative in which the media perpetuate a terror of ‘invasion’ from immigrants, asylum seekers (indeed any racial, cultural or ethnic ‘other’) and position such ‘outsiders’ as the dominant threat to both family and national stability.
Mingling fact and fiction, science and art, Alien Nation also featured a collection of original sci-fi film posters from the 1950’s to present day, courtesy of The Reel Poster Gallery, as well as extracts from contemporary and archive science fiction films as part of this unique exhibition that reveals our innermost fears and fantasies about the outsider.
Featured artists included, Laylah Ali, Hamad Butt, Ellen Gallagher & Edgar Cleijne, David Huffman, Hew Locke, Marepe, Henna Nadeem, Kori Newkirk, Yinka Shonibare MBE, Eric Wesley and Mario Ybarra Jr.
They Came From Outer Space: Artists in Alien Nation
Laylah Ali was born in Buffalo, New York, in 1968. Working primarily in painting and drawing, Ali creates cartoonish figures that play out enigmatic narratives or stand in isolation, their simplicity belying darker stories of ethnicity, difference and African American history.
Ali completed her BA at Williams College, Williamstown (1991) after which she attended the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program, New York (1991–92), Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Maine (1993) and Washington University, St Louis (1994) where she received her MFA. Ali has had a number of solo exhibitions, including at the Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces, Melbourne (2005), Contemporary Art Museum St Louis, St Louis (2004), Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo (2003), Atlanta College of Art Gallery, Atlanta (2002) and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (1999).
Ali’s work has featured in many group exhibitions including the Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2004), Street-Smart Art: Five Artists to Create Billboards, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2004), me & more, Kunstmuseum, Lucerne (2003), Fault Lines: Contemporary African Art and Shifting Landscapes, 50th International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia, Venice (2003) and Splat Boom Pow! The Influence of Comics in Contemporary Art, Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston (2003). For Projects 75 at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, Ali created an artist’s book (2002). In 2001, Ali was awarded the Premio Regione Piemonte 2001 from the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin, and in 2000 the ICA Artist Prize, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston. Ali lives and works in Massachusetts.
Hamad Butt was born in Lahore in 1962 and graduated from Goldsmiths College, London (1990). In 1994 he died of an AIDS-related illness. Through his installation-based practice, Butt investigated notions of pure science, from complex calculations on the triple point of iodine to experimentations with holograms. During his brief career, he was the subject of solo exhibitions at John Hansard Gallery, Southampton (1992) and Milch Gallery, London (1990) and featured in the major group exhibition Rites of Passage, Tate Gallery, London (1995). Following his death, his work has featured in a number of group exhibitions including zerozerozero, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London (1999) and Current Research, Millais Gallery, Southampton (1998). The artist’s book Familiars, in effect Butt’s final project, was published posthumously in 1996 according to his instructions.
Edgar Cleijne was born in Eindhoven in 1963 and graduated from the Rotterdam Conservatory (1990). As a photographer and filmmaker he focuses on large-scale interventions in the urban landscape enforced by negotiations between the individual and the state. Concentrating on the individual choices that result in complex urban developments, Cleijne portrays the struggle to live and be represented within systems of official denial. He has exhibited his work in Spectacular City: Photographing the Future, Netherlands Architecture Institute, Rotterdam and NRW Forum – Kultur und Wirtschaft, Düsseldorf (2006), Migration and Development, Museo Nacional, San Jose, Costa Rica (2006), Greenspace, Valencia (2005), Lisbon Photo Biennial, Lisbon (2003), Fotodocs, Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam (2002), Mutations, arc en rêve centre d’architecture, Bordeaux (2002–03, travelling) and City Vision, Media-City, Seoul (2000). In 2001 he started a collaboration with the architect Rem Koolhaas on The Harvard Design School Project on the City – Lagos, and the subsequent book, Lagos How It Works, is due to be published early in 2007. In 2003 he made the film Lagos Live, with director and screenwriter Bregtje van der Haak. Cleijne also frequently collaborates with artist Ellen Gallagher. Their 16mm film pieces have been shown at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2006), Freud Museum, London (2005), Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami (2005), Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh (2004–05), Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Washington (2004) and the Studio Museum, Harlem. Cleijne lives and works in New York and Rotterdam.
Ellen Gallagher was born in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1965, and studied at Oberlin College, Ohio (1982–84). She completed her painting studies at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (1992), where she was the recipient of a Travelling Scholar’s Award (1993). In 1993, Gallagher received the Agnes Gund Fellowship to study at the Skowhegen School of Painting and Sculpture, Maine. Through her practice – paintings, drawings, printmaking and film – Gallagher manipulates archival material and popular cultural sources to examine notions of race and identity, although she is equally interested in the formal aspects of her process, the materials, forms, mark making, repetition and rhythm through which she negotiates the relationship between abstraction and representation, the organic and the structured, the personal and the collective. Gallagher has exhibited widely, most recently with solo exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2005), Freud Museum, London (2005), Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami (2005), Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh (2004), Saint Louis Art Museum, St Louis (2003) and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (2001). She has also participated in numerous group exhibitions over her career, including Heart of Darkness: Kai Althof, Ellen Gallagher/Edgar Cleijne, Thomas Hirshhorn, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2006), Infinite Painting: Contemporary Painting and Global Realism, Villa Manin Centre for Contemporary Art, Udine (2006), Black Panther Rank and File, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco (2006), Skin Is a Language, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2006), The Fluidity of Time: Selections from the MCA Collection, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2005–06), SITE Santa Fe Fifth International Biennial, Sante Fe (2004), Dreams and Conflicts: The Dictatorship of the Viewer, 50th International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia, Venice (2003), Greater New York: New Art in New York Now, P.S.1. Contemporary Art Center (2000), Corps (Social), Ecole Nationale Supériere des Beaux-Arts, Paris (1999), Projects, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin (1997) and the Whitney Biennal, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1995). In 2000, she was awarded an American Academy Award in Art. She lives and works in New York and Rotterdam.
David Huffman was born in Berkeley, California, in 1963. He received his MFA at the California College of Arts and Crafts, Oakland in 1999, and is now a member of the faculty at the California College of the Arts, San Francisco. Informed by historical and contemporary events, Huffman unfolds an epic story of African American space explorers called Traumasmiles, a civilisation marked by the mask of the minstrel’s broad smile, whose metaphoric conflicts parallel nation/state, religious, racial and personal tragedies. Huffman’s work has been included in a number of group exhibitions in the United States, including Black Belt (2003–04) and Freestyle (2001) both held at the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York and the Santa Monica Museum of Art, Santa Monica, un(Common) Ground: Introductions South, San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, San Jose (2002), Retrofuturist, New Langton Arts, San Francisco (2001), Hybrid, Southern Exposure, San Francisco (2000) and Bay Area Now 2, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco (1999–2000). His first major solo exhibition, Dark Matter: The Art of David Huffman, was held at the de Saisset Museum, Santa Clara (2004). Huffman is the recipient of the 2005 Artadia Foundation Award. He lives and works in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Hew Locke was born in Edinburgh in 1959 and spent the early part of his life in Georgetown, Guyana (1966–80). He completed his BA at Falmouth School of Art, Falmouth (1988) and his MA in Sculpture at the Royal College of Art, London (1994). In recent years Locke has focused on his fascination and ambivalence around ideas and images of Britishness in a global context, such as the royal family. He explores global cultural fusions, creating complex sculptural collages comprised of an eclectic range of objects, including market-stall mass-produced toys, souvenirs and consumer detritus. Solo exhibitions have taken place at the New Art Gallery Walsall, Walsall (2005), Tate Britain, London (2004), Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, Atlanta (2004, traveling), Horniman Museum, London (2002), Chisenhale Gallery, London (2002) and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (2000). Locke’s work has featured in many group exhibitions within the UK, including the British Art Show 6, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead (2006, travelling), Boys Who Sew, Crafts Council, London (2004–05, traveling), Somewhere – places of refuge in art and life, Angel Row Gallery, Nottingham (2002, traveling) and East International, Norwich Art Gallery, Norwich (2000). In 2000 he received both the Paul Hamlyn Award and the East International Award. Locke lives and works in London.
Marepe was born Marcos Ruis Peixoto in San Antonia de Jesus, Bahia, in 1970 where he still lives and works. The culture of this region, Bahia’s traditions and customs, as well as its materials, inform Marepe’s conceptual sculptural practice, whether by changing the function and status of common objects or the meaning of local street performances, to create lyrical gestures out of everyday life. His first major solo exhibition was held at the Centre Pompidou, Paris (2005–06) and in 2004 he presented a Special Project at P.S.1 in collaboration with the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Since the 1990s Marepe has exhibited widely in international group exhibitions, including Tropicália: A Revolution in Brazilian Culture, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2005–06, travelling), Poetic Justice, 8th International Istanbul Biennial, Istanbul (2003), Dreams and Conflicts: The Dictatorship of the Viewer, 50th International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia, Venice (2003), How Latitudes Become Form: Art in a Global Age, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2003, travelling), Metropolitan Iconographies, XXV Bienal de São Paulo, São Paulo (2001) and The Thread Unravelled: Contemporary Brazilian Art, El Museo Del Barrio, New York (2001).
Henna Nadeem was born in Leeds in 1966 and graduated with a MA from the Royal College of Art, London (1993). In Nadeem’s complex photographic collages, she superimposes decorative patterns inspired by Islamic, Japanese and Moorish sources onto a wide range of found landscape images, from tourist shots of Africa to chocolate box depictions of 1950s England, integrating disparate visual references to create new cultural readings. Nadeem’s recent solo exhibitions include Charleston Farmhouse, as part of Brighton Photo Biennial (2006) and the Newlyn Art Gallery, Penzance (2005). Other solo projects include Henna Nadeem: Picture Book of Britain, a publication by Photoworks (2006), trees water rocks for Piccadilly Circus Underground Station, London (2004–05) and Billy Bragg, a billboard commission for Project Gallery, Dublin (2004). She has exhibited widely in group exhibitions across the UK, including Another Product, Cornerhouse, Manchester (2006), Picture of Britain, Tate Britain (2005), I want! I want!, Northern Gallery of Contemporary Art, Sunderland (2003–04, travelling), Landscape Trauma in the Age of Scopophilia, Leeds Metropolitan University Gallery (2001–02, travelling), re:creation; re:construction, Pump House Gallery, London (2001) and A Different Kind of Show, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London (2000). Nadeem has undertaken residencies at the London Print Studio (2004–05), the University of Sunderland in conjunction with Autograph (2003–04), and Camden Arts Centre, London (1997). In 2006, Nadeem was nominated for the Paul Hamlyn Award. She lives and works in London.
Kori Newkirk was born in the Bronx, New York, in 1970, and received his BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago (1993) and his MFA from the University of California, Irvine (1997). This was followed by a period as an artist in residence at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Maine (1997). Newkirk’s photographs, mixed media paintings and sculptural installations engage with both the personal and political realities of being identified as African American, which he often conveys through the use of disparate materials, from fake snow and white neon to the pony-beads, braided hair and pomade associated with black hairstyles. Newkirk’s recent solo exhibitions include the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego (2005), Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (2005) and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland (2004). His work has been presented in numerous group exhibitions, most recently Collection in Context: Selections from the Permanent Collection (2006) and Freestyle (2001), both at the Studio Museum, Harlem, Dak’Art, 7th Edition of the Biennale of Contemporary African Art, Dakar (2006), the Whitney Biennial: Day for Night, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2006), Uncertain States of America, Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo (2005, travelling) and the California Biennial, Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach (2004). Newkirk was awarded the 2004 William H. Johnson Prize. He lives and works in Los Angeles.
Yinka Shonibare MBE
Yinka Shonibare was born in London in 1962 and raised in Nigeria. He studied for his BA at the Byam Shaw School of Art, London (1984–89) and completed his MA at Goldsmiths College, London (1991). Known primarily for his figurative sculptures inspired by literature and art history rendered in recognisably African fabrics, Shonibare’s works bring together disparate cultural references and materials, to explore issues around colonisation and exploration, national and racial identity, and class and cultural politics. His recent solo exhibitions include the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam (2004), Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna (2004), Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia (2004), KIASMA Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki (2003), Studio Museum, Harlem (2002) and Camden Arts Centre, London (2000). His work has been exhibited internationally in group exhibitions such as Around the World in Eighty Days, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London and South London Gallery (2006), Figures in the Field: Figurative Sculpture and Abstract Painting from Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2006), Take Two Worlds and Views: Contemporary Art from the Collection, Museum of Modern Art, New York (2006), Translation, Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2005), Africa Remix, Museum Kunst Palast, Düsseldorf (2004, travelling), Documenta 11, Kassel (2002), The Short Century, Museum Villa Stuck, Munich (2001, travelling), Plateau of Mankind, 49th International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia, Venice (2001) and Sensation: Young British Art from the Saatchi Collection, Royal Academy, London (1997). In 2005 Shonibare was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s New Year Honours List for services to art, and in 2004 he was short-listed for the Turner Prize. He lives and works in London.
Eric Wesley was born in Los Angeles in 1973 and studied at the University of California, Los Angeles (1992–97). Wesley operates in the area of formal as well as social critique, his playfully subversive practice often taking the form of large-scale installations directed at contemporary global culture, whether television programmes, art institutions, food production or the weapons trade. His first solo exhibition in a public art institution was presented at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2006) as part of the MOCA Focus Programme. Wesley has been included in a number of group exhibitions, including 100 Artists See God, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London (2004–05, travelling), the Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2004), More Boots=Many Routes, Transmission Gallery, Glasgow (2003), Snapshot: New Art from Los Angeles, UCLA Hammer Museum, Los Angeles and the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami (2001), and Freestyle, Studio Museum, New York and Santa Monica Museum of Art, Santa Monica (2001). Wesley lives and works in Los Angeles and Berlin.
Mario Ybarra Jr
Mario Ybarra Jr was born in Los Angeles in 1973. He received his BFA from Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles (1999) and his MFA in Studio Art from the University of California, Irvine (2001). Ybarra’s art practice – working across a range of media including drawing, installation, video and photography – engages with the social conditions of contemporary Los Angeles and his own experiences as a Mexican American artist living in the city. His work has been presented in a number of group exhibitions, including the Tijuana Biennial, Centro Cultural Tijuana, Tijuana (2006), Consider This…, LACMA Lab, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles (2006), Home of the Free, Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago (2005), Uncertain States of America, Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo (2005) and I Am A Curator, Chisenhale Gallery, London (2003). His performances include Art Perform, Art Basel Miami Beach, Miami (2005), Below the Belt, Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, Los Angeles (2003) and A Show That Will Show That A Show Is Not Just A Show, The Project, Los Angeles (2002). In 2002 Ybarra co-founded Slanguage in Wilmington, California, a programme of art classes and performance workshops aimed at engaging the local community. In 2006, with his partner Karla B. Diaz, Ybarra opened a project space in Los Angeles called the New Chinatown Barbershop. He lives and works in Los Angeles.
The Alien Nation publication was lavishly illustrated with images of the artists’ work as well as original film posters, film stills and archival photographs from the 1950s and 1960s. It included essays by the curators – John Gill, Jens Hoffmann and Gilane Tawadros – interviews with the participating artists and an essay by Professor David A. Mellor on the BBC television series Quatermass. Alien Nation represents a significant contribution to our current understanding not only of the science fiction genre but also of the politics of difference.
120 pages, hardback, 272 x 192 mm
65 colour and 27 black & white illustrations
Published by ICA, inIVA & Hatje Cantz Verlag
ISBN: 1-899846-47-6 / 978-1-899846-47-4