Nicole Bachmann, hovers above the chest, 2022, HD video, 21min
Nicole Bachmann, hovers above the chest, 2022, HD video, 21min

Nicole Bachmann

with Emily Butler

‘I’m very interested in the voice, sounds, movement and touch, and all our senses and how we can convey meaning with these.’

Listen to the full interview here:

My name is Nicole Bachmann and I work across video, text, sound, installation and performance, to investigate the wider socio-political impact of how meaning is made and who has access to making it. The western concept of knowledge production is, to me, a limited and linear way of seeing and talking about the world, based on power structures. I’m interested in the voice, sounds, movement and touch, and all our senses and how we can convey meaning with these. My work is always text-based, and I collaborate with dancers and actors to create films and performances.

The texts in my work are poetic and associative, often broken up, leaving space for new interpretations. I think about knowledge production as a wider impact for my work and me, and how I perceive the world, and how we can dismantle and call out current power structures. They are disabling us in all directions with inequality, race, gender and environmental policies.

What are you showing in The London Open 2022?

I am showing my new film, hovers above the chest (2022), which is a dual-screen audio-video installation which was filmed in East London’s Hackney Marshes last year. The film is set in a future in which the three performers are like sharers (similarly to the characters in O. E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower): hyper emphatically looking for solidarity and connection when the outside world seems to have replaced these with mass alienation and displacement. They do their best to use their body and voice as forms of expression, as vehicles to make connections and to build kinship. Metaphorically, but also bodily and relationally, between them and with the multiple ecologies that surround them. Water is another active character in the network they are placed in. Its presence reminds us where we come from and where we are going, while cradling our present — containing collective stories and histories, touching and infiltrating through skin, wounds and other orifices, viscerally connecting the performers’ bodies and their fluids, their essence. This helps us understand the situation beyond the binaries that have built up the concept of body throughout the formation of languages in the majority of the western countries, e.g. inside/outside, male/female, human/non-human or nature/culture, by offering fluid solutions to create new approaches to the idea of the body.

What do you hope that visitors will take away from your work?

I hope they experience the connectedness that exists between the performers. Viewers may also think about community in different ways, and how we can be together.

Your performance along the rims (2021) was part of our late-night festival Nocturnal Creatures in 2021. That work developed out of a video work, and we showed them in tandem. I understand this work that you’re presenting in The London Open 2022 is also an extension of this earlier work. Can you tell us how you work between performance and video, and vice versa?

My performances and video works inform each other. I have gained skills from working with performers and in improvisation by making performances, which I now use in my video works. I think there’s a constant exchange between the different forms. It’s also because my works are text-based, and based on the voice, based on collaboration with movement and voice. It could also suddenly take on the form of an audio installation, so it’s not only between performance and video, but also between written text and audio pieces. It moves around. The work takes on the form that it is most suited to, even though it’s not necessarily always clear in the beginning. It’s all interconnected.

Works in the exhibition:
hovers above the chest, 2022
HD video, dual-screen20 mins
Courtesy the artist and VITRINE
Performed by Nandi Bhebhe, Cian McConn, Patricia Langa

sea of particles, 2022
wood, fabric, acrylic ink
50 x 120 x 40 cm

Nicole Bachman (b. 1973, Zurich, Switzerland)
2010 MFA Fine Art, Goldsmiths, University of London
2007 Diploma of Fine Art, University of the Arts, Zurich

Selected exhibitions: Whitstable Biennial, Kent (2022); Along a long so long, VITRINE Gallery Basel (2021); Sol Invictus, Fondazione Merz, Palermo (2021); Rub your shoulder with mine, Espace Topic, Geneva (solo) (2020); Fluid Bodies, E-Werk, Freiberg (2020); A circle whispering dot, Mimosa House, London (solo) (2019); Protect me from what I want, Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen, St Gallen (2019); Personare I and II, Tenderpixel, London (solo) (2018); Doings&kNOTs, Art Hall Tallinn (2015); Rhythm of Thought, Whitechapel Gallery, London (2015); Classroom, New York Art Book Fair, MoMA PS1, New York (2014)

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.