Artists: Christina Hemauer and Roman Keller
Curated by Fiona Parry
Friday 15 April 2011 to Saturday 28 May 2011
Performance of an American president’s dedication to the White House solar installation: 7.30 pm
A Road Not Taken (2010), film screening and Q&A with the artists: Saturday 16 April 2.30 pm
Cubitt Gallery presents the first UK solo exhibition by Swiss artists Christina Hemauer and Roman Keller. Through performance, video, sculptural-recreation, text and archive material, Hemauer and Keller explore two short-lived experiments with solar energy, both marking points of change or crisis in the history of oil consumption.
Sun of 1913 (2009) looks back to the first commercial-scale solar power plant, which American engineer Frank Shuman built in Maadi near Cairo in 1913. In Egypt under British mandate for a short period solar energy was an economic form of power generation, cheaper than shipping coal from Britain. However, the plant ceased operation after one year, at the onset of World War I, as the British Government began mass-scale crude oil production in Iran, precipitating a widespread turn to oil. The story of Shuman’s solar plant is told through a narrative written with Egyptian writer Wageh George. A video projection shows the reconstruction of two segments of the plant by the artists and craftsmen in Cairo.
A Curiosity, a Museum Piece and an Example of a Road not Taken (2006-2007) investigates former American president Jimmy Carter’s pioneering but ultimately futile energy programme. It culminated in his symbolic solar installation on the White House roof during the 1979 energy crisis, which was removed by the Ronald Regan administration. At Cubitt, Hemauer and Keller focus on the solar installation at the point of greatest potential: its design, construction and ceremonial launch. Archive contact sheets show the panels being installed. Carter’s speech inaugurating them – calling America to break its addiction to imported oil – can be read from a sculptural recreation of a presidential lectern and will be performed during the exhibition opening.
Using re-creation and re-enactment to revitalise the optimism of these pioneering projects, Hemauer and Keller also highlight the time that has since lapsed; that these were “roads not taken”. They revisit episodes in the history of oil and solar energy to ask questions about the present energy situation: increased dependence on, and continued conflict over, fossil fuels. Since 2003 the focus of their research-based practice has been the concept of energy as a defining force of modern society, including works and performances that herald the post-petroleum age and map the relationship between the history of energy and modern art.
Christina Hemauer (born 1973 Zurich, Switzerland) and Roman Keller (born 1969 Liestal, Switzerland) live in Zurich, Switzerland. Recent exhibitions include United Alternative Energies, Centre for Contemporary Art, Aarhus, Denmark, curated by Latitudes (2011) and the 11th Cairo International Biennale, Cairo (2009).
A Road Not Taken (2010), 66 mins
Film screening and Q&A with the artists: Saturday 16 April 2.30 pm
This will be the UK premier of Hemauer and Keller’s documentary road trip film A Road Not Taken (2010). The film is structured around the conceptual act of finding and donating two of Carter’s solar panels to American history museums as the “museum pieces” he warned they might become. Through interviews (including with Carter) and archive footage the film investigates Carter’s energy programme in the context of his foreign policy on Iran during the 1979 oil crisis.
Image credit: A Road Not Taken (2010), film still, Christina Hemauer and Roman Keller
Spaghetti Junctions is generously supported by the Arts Council England, Outset Contemporary Art Fund, The Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia, Solar UK, Matt’s Gallery, Camden Arts Centre and the Zabludowicz Collection.
For more information please contact Judith Carlton on +44 (0)20 7278 8226 or visit the Contact Us page on our website.