Tate Liverpool announce two new exhibitions – Keywords building on Raymond Williams study

Posted on 5 February 2014
By Carlton Whitfield
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Tate Liverpool are set to unveil two new exhibitions Keywords about the role of words in art, culture and society and Richard Hawkins: Hijikata Twist.

Keywords, an exhibition building on Raymond Williams’ study, of the same name about the vocabulary of culture and society.

First published in 1976, ‘Keywords’ has become a seminal work in the study of the English language as well as the fields of Cultural Studies and Visual Culture.

An academic and critic influenced by the New Left, Williams understood ‘Keywords’ as terms that repeatedly crop up in our discussion of culture and society.

The book contains over 130 short essays on words such as ‘Violence’, ‘Country’, ‘Criticism’, ‘Media’, ‘Popular’ and ‘Exploitation’ providing an account of the word’s current use, its origin and the range of meanings attached to it.

The exhibition, spanning a twenty year period from the first publication of the book to the last year of Conservative rule in 1996, has a strong focus on British art of the 1980s.

This decade was marked by many forms of oppositional politics in Britain, which had a direct impact on culture -from the miners strike, to the campaign for Nuclear disarmament, race riots, gay liberation and feminism to an ongoing insurgency against British rule in Northern Ireland.

In this exhibition these viewpoints are represented and juxtaposed by a generation of British artists who were familiar with the ideas that Williams and other cultural theorists were exploring at the time.

Almost sixty works by artists such as Stuart Brisley, Helen Chadwick, Rita Donagh, Rotimi Fani-Kayode, David Hockney, Anish Kapoor, Peter Kennard, John Latham, Stephen McKenna, Carl Plackman, Donald Rodney, Jo Spence, Anne Tallentire and Stephen Willats are grouped in a relationship to key words from William’s book.

Viewers are confronted with manifestations of words from Williams’s book including ‘Liberation’, ‘Violence’, ‘Unconscious’ and ‘Private’ in a specially designed space conceived by artist Luca Frei and designer Will Holder. Here visitors will be encouraged to discuss and debate the relationship between the words and the works.

In addition to Tate collection and works on loan, a number of seminal artworks are being uniquely re-presented such as One for Sorrow Two for Joy 1976 a pioneering performance from Rose Finn-Kelcey and Sunil Gupta’s controversial London Gay Switchboard 1980. Helen Chadwick’s notorious Carcass 1986 will also go on display for the first time since its premiere in 1986.

Central to Keywords has been its public talks programme by major figures from the spheres of art, theory, activism and politics. To date this has included lectures by Linda Bellos on ‘Equality’, Douglas Crimp on ‘Theory’, Geeta Kapur on ‘Practice’, Leo Bersani on ‘Sex’ and Tony Bennett on ‘Culture’. This outstanding line up will continue with Baroness Lola Young on ‘Ethical’ in spring 2014.

The exhibition has been organised in partnership with Iniva – Institute of International Visual Arts, London where the first incarnation of Keywords was presented from 27 March – 18 May 2013.

Read about Richard Hawkins: Hijikata Twist