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Jeremy Millar: Given
This exhibition has now closed.
Dates: 28 September 2009– 5 May 2010
Jeremy Millar explores how events in history resonate with our understanding and experience of the present. His artistic practice frequently takes as its starting point important events in the history of ideas to develop a poetic enquiry within a fictional, and often scholarly, framework and sensibility. 'Given' presents in the historic Queen’s House a series of newly-commissioned artworks that take as their starting point a very particular journey.
In 1914, the Polish anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski invited his childhood friend, the artist and writer Stanislaw Witkiewicz, to act as his draughtsman and photographer on an expedition to New Guinea. They set off from Folkestone in early June and their arrival in Australia a few weeks later coincided with the outbreak of the First World War. The pair argued about how to respond and Witkiewicz returned to Europe to fight. Malinowski stayed and continued his research, which was to become one of the foundation stones of social anthropology. In May 2009 MiIllar travelled to Kiriwina off the coast of Papua New Guinea (PNG), where Malinowski conducted his most famous fieldwork. Here, Millar made a series of photographs 'as Witkiewicz' might have done, had he continued his journey.
Although Witkiewicz never reached PNG, the country nevertheless become an important place for him, emblematic of what one might term 'tropicality'. This is seen most clearly in his Metaphysics of the Two-Headed Calf: a Tropical-Australian Play in Three Acts (1921) – a strange drama set in New Guinea and Australia.
The play has never been staged in PNG and only twice in Australia: firstly in a 1973 amateur production in Alice Springs and secondly a fully professional performance, directed by Roger Pulvers, at the Pram Factory Theatre in Melbourne in 1980. For 'Given', Millar invited two theatre directors – Adrian Guthrie in Adelaide, Australia and John Doa in Goroka, PNG – to stage the play in the manner they considered most appropriate to their cultural circumstances.
Malinowski’s research looked into the Kula ring, an exchange economy between the island communities in the Massim region of PNG. In this system ceremonial objects are never held as possessions, but rather move around the ring, with soulava, or ceremonial necklaces, moving clockwise: they are described as being given 'with the left hand'.
During his travels to PNG, Millar obtained a soulava from the National Cultural Commission in Port Moresby that had already been withdrawn from the Kula. Six Polish coins, from 2002, minted with a portrait of Malinowski in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of his death, have been entangled into the soulava, which is displayed in a museum showcase.
About the artist
Jeremy Millar is an artist living in Whitstable and he is currently AHRC Research Fellow in the Creative and Performing Arts at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, University of Oxford. He has exhibited widely in the UK and abroad including Tramway, Glasgow; CCA, Vilnius; Rooseum, Malmö; Bloomberg Space, London; and the Metropole Galleries, Folkestone. His recent exhibitions and screenings include Plum Tree Blossom, commissioned by Inverleith House, Edinburgh; the Vigeland Museum in Oslo; and Tate Modern, London.
A permanent public work was installed in Folkestone in 2006. A monograph on his work, Zugzwang (almost complete), with an essay by Brian Dillon, was published in 2006. He is currently developing the exhibition Every Day is a Good Day for Hayward Touring, which will be the largest exhibition to date of the visual art of John Cage, opening at Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead in 2010.
About New Visions
New Visions is the contemporary art programme of the National Maritime Museum. Working with British and international artists, New Visions encourages and broadens access to the arts and deepens the National Maritime Museum’s engagement with its core exploration of the sea, stars and time and the significance of Greenwich as a World Heritage Site. The Museum is a rich source of inspiration to artists, from the depths of its collections to its magnificent listed buildings.
The Curator of Contemporary Art is Lisa Le Feuvre.
For further information contact firstname.lastname@example.org