The Best of London's September Exhibitions

With galleries reopening after the summer break, a guide to the best of the new season shows in the capital

BY Chris Fite-Wassilak in Critic's Guides | 05 SEP 18

As the summer comes to a close, we shuffle back indoors to replenish in the soothing shadows; switch on the neon lights and/or projectors, print out press releases, and settle in for a new season of shows.

This September sees the opening of several new spaces in London: the Assemble-designed Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Art (8 September), South London Gallery’s new annex in a nearby former fire station (22 September), as well as V22 launching their new studios out east near London’s City Airport with a group exhibition (21 September). These venues in New Cross, Peckham and Silvertown mark new frontiers in London’s sprawl of exhibition spaces; though with V22 continuing their ‘Young London’ series surveying the next hot young things and SLG’s ‘Knock Knock’ show wading into the well-worn territory of a large scale group exhibition dealing with ‘humour in contemporary art’, how much new ground these spaces will actually cover remains to be seen. Meanwhile, a set of mainly time-based works across the city over the next month promise to keep us keenly nourished well into autumn.

Ana Vaz, So long as the sky is recognised as an association, 2018. Courtesy: the artist and Lux

Ana Vaz, ‘The Voyage Out’
12 September – 7 October

The films of Ana Vaz are like a vivid dream of a nature documentary about the vagaries of human perception; colour-saturated footage that shifts from moments of careful observation to casual, impossible fantasies. Vaz has described her work as ‘anxious quasi-anthropologic fictions’; her first UK exhibition sees an installation of videos, sound works, maps and events as part of her ongoing project The Voyage Out (2016–ongoing). An ethnography of an island that has supposedly arisen following the nuclear meltdown in Fukushima, Japan, the kaleidoscope of the project becomes a way to imagine a post-apocalyptic ecology. While The Voyage Out will eventually culminate in a full-length feature film, for the moment you can catch a selection of Vaz’s shorter films at a concurrent screening event at the Whitechapel.

Erin Ellen Kelly and Mariam Ghani, To Live, 2013. Courtesy: the artists and Hollybush Gardens, London

‘Where I Am Is Here’
Hollybush Gardens
31 August – 16 September

Centred around and named after Scottish artist Margaret Tait’s half-hour episodic and wandering portrait of Edinburgh, Where I Am Is Here (1964), and part of a set of events marking the 100th anniversary of her birth, this changing set of screenings and performance, curated by Helen Nisbett, is already well under way, so catch the rest while you can. Tait’s film plays continually over the next two weeks, glancing black and white Super 8 footage of incidents large and small: revellers rolling in freshly fallen snow, while the camera lingers on the window pane; a man self-consciously launching a toy sailboat into a stream. Alongside this, each weekend features a different artist in parallel, which began with Mariam Ghani’s To Live (2013); this coming weekend features a performance by Rhona Warwick Patterson (9 September), and next weekend work by Jasleen Kaur (14–16 September).

‘On Collecting. Panza Collection Archives’, 2018, installation view. Courtesy: Hauser & Wirth, London

‘On Collecting: Panza Collection Archives’
Hauser & Wirth
4 – 15 September

My own experience with collecting will most likely be forever limited to dusty binders full of trading cards, and those free posters that artists like Jeremy Deller leave around their shows. But the mechanics and machinations that go into the long-term care for an artwork is a fascinating world, fraught with acid-free archival paper, acerbic egos, and things that just happen to go missing. For two weeks at Hauser & Wirth, a minimal library of sorts puts the collecting activities of Giovanna and Giuseppe Panza on display, including sketches, photographs, correspondence with artists like Hanne Darboven, plans for James Turrell’s interminable crater project, which they helped fund, and the ‘performative’ installation of a Sol LeWitt wall drawing. Giuseppe Panza, an Italian wine distributor with a taste for American art, was at times a controversial figure (Donald Judd accused him in the ’80s of making unauthorised works from sketches), but his efforts went on to form major parts of the MOCA and Guggenheim collections, and others. This reading room and accompanying events might shed a little light on what the unknown factor of time does to the equation of art + money.

Martine Syms, Mythiccbeing, 2018, film still. Courtesy: the artist and Sadie Coles HQ, London

Martine Syms, ‘Grand Calme’
Sadie Coles HQ, Kingly Street
6 September – 20 October

Syms made an initial appearance within Sadie Coles in 2016 as part of Condo, a slim back room showing of what felt like fragments of work in progress, an effort overshadowed by her bold and layered show later that year in the ICA. This sees Syms return to occupy the full gallery, (almost) literally: a screen holds a virtual reality avatar of the artist, programmed with her physical tics and way of talking. We’re meant to interact, via that means with which we interact with most people in our lives: our phones. It might sound borderline cringe, but Syms’s often deft negotiation of personal histories, cultural touchstones and self-conscious representation should provide a critical cracked mirror to the debates on race and identity that need a broader public platform in the UK.

Dapper Bruce Lafitte, T.B.D.C Presents Walking From New Orleans, 2017, archival ink on paper, 46 x 61 cm. Courtesy: FIERMAN, New York and Tatjana Pieters, Gent

Dapper Bruce Lafitte and Jeremiah Day
12 September – 20 October

This pairing sees the intertwining of two different forms of narrating place, bringing together the detailed felt-tip drawings of Dapper Bruce Lafitte with the annotated photographs of Jeremiah Day. Lafitte’s works are filled with bustling crowds and inscribed with notes and names, often depicting his hometown of New Orleans: T.D.B.C. Presents Put the Guns Down Said the Col. (2017) shows a crowd standing outside the Ernest N. Morial Convention Centre, where thousands were evacuated after hurricane Katrina; armed soldiers and television crews stand between us and the herded escapees, interspersed with nods like ‘RIP Bobby Blue Bland’. Day’s photographic series ‘No Words For You, Springfield’ (2009) follows immigration trails to an area of Boston, similarly footnoting and cutting into his images with personal asides. Day’s performances, often weaving together muted reflections with improvised choreography, usually provide an unexpectedly personal side-winding road into his work, and the show will include a performance from him on the 26 October.

Hermann Braus, Anatomie des Menschen: ein Lehrbuch für Studierende und Ärzte (Anatomy of Man: a textbook for students and doctors), 1921. Courtesy: Carlos/Ishikawa, London

Stuart Middleton, ‘Improvers’
20 September – 27 October

While information on what will be in Middleton’s upcoming show hasn’t been released, it might be fair to guess that it’ll include the ingredients of several of his recent shows: creeping, existential stop-motion animation videos – like Beat (2017), a portrait of an ageing, moody mutt that formed part of his (literally) pared back show at the ICA last year – likely framed by some wayward, ironic architectural interventions, such as the stained tubes of white tenting that housed the same exhibition’s iteration in Glasgow’s Tramway. What intrigues me about Middleton’s work is the fug of suburban bluster and boredom that hangs around his work, like the insistent smell of the moulding foods and wallpaper in several of his animations.

Lawrence Abu Hamdan, 3 Whispers (detail), 2017. Courtesy: the artist

Lawrence Abu Hamdan, ‘Earwitness Theatre’
Chisenhale Gallery
21 September – 9 December

Drawing on sound recordings and descriptions of sonic experience, Abu Hamdan’s work has been a sustained critique of the hierarchy of senses in how we witness and come to grips with what we think of as the ‘truth’. His new work presented at Chisenhale draws on his crucial work around the Syrian military prison Saydnaya, part of which was included at the Forensic Architecture exhibition at the ICA earlier this year. Drawing from prisoners’ descriptions of what they heard while held there while mostly hooded or blindfolded, alongside a treated recording of some of the detainees testaments, this show displays some of the objects the artist has used to refine and aid their testimonies: pasta, shoes and pine cones. These are the tools of the contemporary Foley artist and human rights activist, helping us retrieve from silence some evidence of what went on within the prison’s walls.

Head over to On View to see more current and upcoming shows in London.

Main image: Portrait of Giuseppe Panza. Courtesy: the Panza Collection

Chris Fite-Wassilak is a writer and critic who lives in London, UK.