with Wells Fray-Smith
‘I just wanted to get a group of people together … and allow them to bring it to life again, through their kind of studying of the magazine, and through this re-enactment of a conversation.’
Listen to the full interview here:
My name is Ian Giles and I’m an artist based in London. I collaborate with other creative people to profile and celebrate LGBTQI+ histories. This might include forming theatre troupes, or making films or hosting events together.
I’ve made works about the gay squatting communities in 1970s Brixton, and also the campaign to save the Joiners Arms, which was a gay pub in Shoreditch. Typically, my projects start by me interviewing lots of people connected to the topic, and then using these texts as a basis for scripts. I love working with other people: cinematographers, actors, other makers, to tell these stories together.
What are you showing in The London Open 2022?
I’m showing a film called After BUTT (2018), which is about BUTT magazine.
What drew you to the magazine and this subject?
BUTT was this amazing little pink and black magazine that was published in the noughties and early 2010s, and they had it in the library at Chelsea College of Art, where I was a student. It was just really different to all the other magazines. It’s a magazine about gay men. They used to interview a whole cross-section of famous gay men and readers. It was always very relaxed and cool and tried to do things that other magazines didn’t do, so it wasn’t kind of squeaky-clean photoshoots with beautifully waxed, muscled pop stars. It would be like a cool, hairy journalist at home or something. It was kind of sexy, but also culturally interesting. It took me years to find a way to work with it, but I eventually did, and made the film After BUTT, which is loosely a history of the magazine, its making and its eventual finishing in 2011.
In the film, there’s a script that shows the recollections of the founders of the magazine, but their stories are retold by actors who are in their 20s. What made you decide to work with this younger generation?
I interviewed all the men that made the magazine. Everyone was super-generous, and they were all in their late 40s, approaching 50s. I was aware that I was part of the generation in between these men in their 40s and the guys that I planned to work with, in their 20s. It was a way of bridging those vast generational gaps and thinking about how culture could move on.
A lot of the guys who featured in the film maybe knew the magazine as a website, but didn’t know the physical magazine. That’s a lovely way of passing down gay culture between generations, through shared oral histories. I just wanted to get a group of people together, give them this information, share it with them, and allow them to bring it to life again, through their studying of the magazine, and re-enactment of a conversation.
The conversation itself is edited from separate interviews which I did with the different men who either wrote the magazine or photographed for the magazine. I had about thirty hours’ worth of interviews, and I copied and pasted the best bits to form the conversation. It’s a highly artificial conversation, but woven together to become this group discussion.
Hopefully, the audience feels part of that discussion, and as you’re sitting amongst these men, some of the cultural touchstones that they mention cause memories to float back, and ideas to reach the audience. So the discussion seeps out from the screen and into the viewing space.
Work in the exhibition:
After BUTT, 2018
Digital film 34 mins
Commissioned by Chelsea Space, London
Ian Giles (b. 1985, Gloucester, UK)
2013 LUX Associate Artists Programme, London
2012 MFA, Slade School of Fine Art, London
2008 BA (Hons) Fine Art, Chelsea College of Art and Design, London
Selected exhibitions, performances and screenings: On Railton Road, Brixton Community Base, Jerwood New Work Fund, London (2020); Outhouse, Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge and Firstsite, Colchester (2019); Trojan Horse/Rainbow Flag, Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club, London (2019), After BUTT, The NY Art Book Fair, MoMA PS1, New York (2018); Clay Meditations, Eastside Projects, Birmingham (2018); After BUTT, Entrée, Bergen (2018); Clay Meditation, Spike Island, Bristol (2016)
What makes London’s art scene so vibrant? What are the concerns of the next generation of artists? What insight does their work offer in challenging times?
This triennial exhibition showcases a cross-section of the most dynamic artistic talent from across the capital. Established in 1932, this much-celebrated open submission show features 46 London-based artists working across painting, sculpture, moving image, installation and performance.
Since the last London Open in 2018, the city has experienced the COVID-19 pandemic, the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, demonstrations demanding racial and climate justice, and widespread questioning of institutions and their structures.
The London Open 2022 traces the ways in which artists have witnessed and responded to these events with resilience and heart. In times of hardship and crisis, and when exhibitions were cancelled and moved online, these artists experimented with new sites of production and means of dissemination, from the kitchen table to the back garden.
The exhibition is loosely structured as a journey from the personal to the social, moving from individual to collective concerns, the cathartic to the poetic, the political and the environmental.
The artists were selected from over 2,600 entries by a panel of experts including collector Maria Bukhtoyarova, artist Shezad Dawood, curator and art historian Christine Eyene, gallerist Stephan Tanbin Sastrawidjaja, with Whitechapel Gallery curators Emily Butler, lnês Costa and Wells Fray-Smith.
Gallery 1, Downstairs
The relationship between our bodies and the material world kickstarts the exhibition. Rafał Zajko‘s wall-based reliefs appear like hybrid beings, processing the gluten found in wheat and barley flour, leaving us unsure if this is for machine or human consumption.Likewise, Madeleine Pledge‘s stretched fabrics and ceramic boots imply absent bodies and their physical role in manufacturing.
Materiality and belief systems intersect in Candida Powell-Williams’ handmade objects. A unicorn and swing inspired by medieval tapestries are fenced off by a trellis, prompting questions about the divisions between what is mythical and real. Alicia Reyes McNamara‘s paintings feature non-binary, shapeshifting figures drawn from various mythologies, from Meso-America to Ancient Egypt, to consider alternative notions of time and embodiment.
Gallery 9, Upstairs
This gallery features works that delve into the impact of technology, algorithms and quantification on our lives. In his series The Spectre of a World Which Could Be Free 2019, Ben Yau looks at the parallel rise of Neoliberalism and the CIA’s role in sabotaging the socialist government of Salvador Allende in Chile in 1973, bringing together both economic data and declassified documents.
Set in a parallel present reminiscent of sci-fi films such as Blade Runner 2049, The Underlying by Ami Clarke considers the implicit role of capitalism in environmental disaster.
Meanwhile, Rory Cahill and George Mackness offer a walk through a dystopian, corrupted digital landscape of the future, with an immersive soundtrack. They consider: what does a digital wasteland look like, what happens there and what is its afterlife?
Gallery 8, Upstairs
The artworks in this gallery reflect on family, identity and community. Seema Khalique travelled to Bangladesh to photograph two communities of transgender people called hijras. In this behind-the-scenes series, she questions the prejudices they face, revealing the economic hardships they endure alongside the strong network of mentorship and care they create.
Pioneering photographer, curator and writer Sunil Gupta took photographs of his neighbourhood on Walworth Road during lockdown. This work celebrates the increased relevance of our localities during the pandemic, as well as reflecting on the processes involved in created photographic images.
On three vintage TV monitors, Hussina Raja‘s short narrative films look at the subject of migration to the UK from post-Partition India, tracing the continued experiences of displacement and exploring nuanced notions of identity.
The works in the last part of the show focus on our relationship to and impact on the environment. In Agrilogistics (2022), Gerard Ortin Castellvi films in an automated greenhouse, in which the growth of tomatoes, tulips and chrysanthemums is controlled by cameras and sensors, in order to question the future of food production.
Having spent lockdown excavating her back garden, Maria Roy Deulofeu meticulously records each layer of soil like an archaeologist, collecting artefacts and ecofacts, before assembling a kiln to fire hand-thrown urns with the different layers of clay. The process is recorded in a video shown alongside the objects. Finally, a flock of parakeets cast in lead are scattered on the ground in Patrick Goddard‘s Blue Sky Thinking (2019).The parakeet exemplifies a non-native species increasingly common in London parks and hints at a mass extinction event, highlighting mankind’s role in the impending climate disaster.
See the full list of works here.
An illustrated catalogue is available to purchase from the bookshop.
Artists have generously made limited editions to coincide with the exhibition to support the Gallery’s education programme.