Jordan Baseman

with Emily Butler

‘I think that part of the work is addressing how we are and what we want from our lives, and how we can construct things around us, to enable us to do what it is that we need to do for ourselves politically, personally, as people.’

Listen to the full interview here:

My name is Jordan Baseman. I’m an artist, I’m a filmmaker, I make installations, films, audio, photographs. My practice is concerned with some form of experimental portraiture.

What are you showing in The London Open 2022?

The film I’m showing is called gendersick (2019). It is a voiceover, we hear someone speaking about their relationship with their body.

We hear them speaking about being asexual, what that means to them, what that means in how they live their life. Their speech is fast, it’s not their natural pace, it’s a very edited piece. It was recorded over three days in Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas through a series of interviews that have been edited to sound as if the person is just speaking directly to an audience.

Accompanying the narration are double- and triple-exposure shots, made on a 16mm camera, shot from a moving car, and walking around the same area over the period of about ten days.

Your work’s experimenting with different tempos, with the editing of the image, the sound. You’re playing with the interview format. What does gendersick aim to do?

I think it aims to centrally position the narrator’s experiences, so that audiences have a deeper understanding of how they experience the world. I think that the work asks a lot of questions about how we’ve constructed ideas of the self and identity and what roles individuals have to play with those things.

What’s powerful about the work is that it offers a voice to a young person. It’s a work that’s very relatable to people who are forming their sexual identities, their physicality, how they’re inhabiting their bodies. Perhaps it’s capturing this moment of transition, where you become aware of being in a very specific body, but also of this unwieldy thing which is your mind. Is that something that you’ve looked at specifically in this work?

Visually with the work, we never see the person that is speaking. And it’s really important to focus on what they’re saying and how they’re saying it. Their delivery is also really important, because it’s very emphatic, it’s very compassionate, angry and funny. That’s quite a volatile mixture to deliver a set of ideas. That was something that I wanted to do within the work with their consent. The narrator is a younger person, and what I really enjoyed about spending time with them was learning about their relationship with creativity and with writing, and their relationship with auto-ethnography and speculative fiction, and this idea that they were creating their own world. I think that part of the work is addressing ideas how we are and what we want from our lives, and how we can construct things around us, to enable us to do what it is that we need to do for ourselves politically, personally, as people.

In your application for The London Open, you wrote an impactful statement: ‘For me, art is a way of celebrating the mystery and the unmeasurable.’ It was a surprisingly concise summary of the aims behind your work. Language obviously seems to play a very important part there too. Can you tell us about how you play between expansion and conciseness of language?

I really enjoyed writing that artist’s statement. It’s a bit of a risk, but it’s kind of true. The works are, gendersick in particular, really edited, so it’s constructed. As I said, it was recorded at three different moments, and each interview is probably two hours long. To say that they were interviews sounds very formal, actually they were recorded conversations among people that have a lot in common. And then,

I removed myself and they were distilled into the beginnings of a narrative. Then I write a text from those. I transcribed that audio into a text then wrote it into a script, which I then edit. Language is really important to the work in terms of how I am changing what people say, retaining the essence of what it is that they’re saying, but kind of concentrating it or condensing it, or putting more focus or more emphasis on it. I’m cherry-picking parts of language, to enable the work to be impactful and also to speak openly. That’s the intention, anyway.
 

Work in the exhibition:
gendersick, 2019
Video
10:47 mins
Courtesy of the artist and Matt’s Gallery, London
 

Jordan Baseman (b. 1960, Philadelphia, PA, USA)
1986 MA Fine Art, Goldsmiths, University of London
1979 BA Fine Art, Tyler School of Art, Temple University, Philadelphia

Selected exhibitions and projects: Artist in Residence, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital Intensive Care Unit, London (2021-2); Do Faster Win More, Meeting Point Commission, Arts + Heritage (2022); A Different Kind of Different, Matt’s Gallery, London (2021); I Dreamt I saw you at Lidl, Without Reduction, Happy Hypocrite, Book Works, London (2021); A River in Reverse, UNTV, Unconformity, Queenstown, Tasmania (2020); Fabula, BBC and Culture in Quarantine, London (2020); Radio Influenza, Wellcome Trust, London (2019); gendersick, Fort Worth Contemporary Art, Fort Worth, Texas (2018); Blackout 7 Films by Jordan Baseman, Broadway Metro, Eugene, Oregon (2018); The Unconformity, Artist in Residence, Queenstown, Tasmania (2018); 1977, House of St. Barnabas, London (2017); DisObey, Matt’s Gallery @ Close-Up Cinema, London (2017)

 

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, 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.