‘Feral Kin’ is London’s first glimpse into Auto Italia’s collaborative, ongoing project ‘On Coping’. From Johannesburg to Copenhagen, Auto Italia has brought ‘On Coping’ across the world. Working locally with artists in each city, the project seeks to unpack the artist precariat by developing systems of growth through collaboration. ‘Feral Kin’ brings the work into the momentary gaze of an increasingly precarious London and expands the focus to include notions of ritual, survival and the underground. What is the best system for artists to cultivate culture? Rather than present an answer to this question, the project poses it to the audience and proposes the exhibition as a working toolkit to join the organisers and artists in their quest for an answer.
Facing out to the public on the large square window are four symbols which include: a group of hands to represent teamwork, an ace of hearts for luck, a quill for research and a wand for the metaphysical. Once inside, a deep, pulsing sound fills the space and transforms the gallery into a telluric chamber.
The room emits the aura of an underground laboratory where the suspiciously absent scientist has disappeared among open experiments. The temptation to explore consumes the viewer as they follow the tracks left behind. Towards the entrance, two plastic bags of wet sod, mixed with mycelium spores, weigh down from the rafters, hung in pearl with yellow rope and silver chains. Brown liquid seeps slowly from the plastic and pools into small puddles underneath. The limited light focuses on bright gestural painted murals of a floral arrangement, two teens on a Ford truck and breaking bread. These paintings act as advertisements for past and future podcast episodes with titles like ‘On Giving’ and ‘Baguette’ which elude to rituals of cooperation.
Staggered between the front and back rooms, two large aluminium structures act as a communal habitat for the majority of the remaining work. These gridded constructions of shelves reach nearly floor to ceiling and are weighted in place by burlap sacks filled with rocks. Mounted screens rotating mocumentaries and confessionals, posters of estranged short-circuiting body parts and dystopian astrology symbols are displayed amongst the cage-like scaffolds as specimen. The pieces intermingle without hierarchy.
As the videos cycle, there is one of nostalgic footage with overlaid distressing phrases like “I have nothing. I google more dead people.” The footage stops abruptly and switches to a stop-motion animation of a character with an oversized head and sassy hips. The illustration draws on subtle defeatist humour, a contemporary method often used in coping. “This is how far I got before I stopped working on this video … I don’t wanna give up on art but it might be the best we can do,” the roughly drawn figure expresses through handwritten words in a thought bubble. The caricature ends on what seems to be a call for action. This call resonates throughout the entire exhibition, “Let’s make the art we need to make in order to survive.”