‘you feel me_’ opened on 31st October 2019―a fitting day on which to interrogate all things systemic and speculative. For one thing it was Halloween, and for another, it was the day on which the UK had been billed to leave the European Union. The press material for FACT’s new group show knowingly invites its viewers to “feel the future and imagine a world without division”, and interrogate power structures both literal and more abstract.
The experience of feelings presents itself in the show. The multimedia works interrogate structures of language, gender and sentiment, or perhaps more specifically, the strange ways in which these structures make themselves felt. Curated by FACT’s Helen Starr with female and non-binary contributors, the show delves into feminist futures and future feminisms.
Megan Broadmeadow’s ‘Why can’t we do this IRL?’ (2019) uses VR to explore how discourse multiplies and disseminates in unruly ways. The work recreates a walk-through of a fictitious event within the ‘real’ videogame Red Dead Redemption, in which a character named The Suffragette is brutally attacked by another called The Cowboy. It’s something of a disorienting watch, but Broadmeadow’s piece effectively pans out from a singular moment, in the process talking about violence and complicity, and tapping into the anxiety and confusion characteristic of our current saturation of news-discourse.
Framing narratives are again layered up in Anna Bunting-Branch and Aliyah Hussain’s ‘Warm Worlds and Otherwise’ (2019). Viewers enter an installation formed of cafe tables on an angled floor. They sit at rotating stools, adding to a literal sense of unbalance. Hussain’s sound piece exists within the physical cafe space, but seeps inside the all-encompassing VR world. Created from hand-painted works, the landscape pulses and sways in an imagined breeze. Bunting-Branch’s other work ‘The Linguists (2019)’ explores ideas of “ecriture feminine”, a theory that centres on language as part of a psychic understanding of the self.
Elsewhere, other animated landscapes come alive in counter-intuitive ways. This includes Rebecca Allen’s digital painting ‘The Observer (1999-2019) in which a richly detailed world has been populated by the computer programme ‘Emergence’, developed by the artist herself.
The works are not strictly limited to the digital. Assemblage and sculpture are also present. Phoebe Colling-James’ plaster sculptures are particularly evocative. They stand freely, huddled almost, on the gallery floor. They might be ghosts, or perhaps more ominously, hoods or masks. The political and the occult intersect through form. Along with her film piece and tactile sculpture, the works form a constellation of pieces about the memory and ritual of objects.
The information surrounding the group show pitches it as a space of healing. This is most apparent in Brandon Covinton Sam-Sumana’s ‘Anatomy of an Apology’ (2019), in which artefacts have been assembled to almost pay homage to the idea of an apology. Like Broadmeadow’s work, we are forced to think about the apology as currency in terms of excessive internet discourse, but also about what we ask of those we have relationships with―what we ‘owe’ and what is ‘owed’ to us.
‘you feel me_’ enacts its supposed “healing” in a critical way. There is much to unpick here; communication, transmission, pervasive yet unidentifiable sentiments. If the phrase ‘you feel me’ is posed as a question, the answer here is a multitude of yeses.