The films and photographs of British artist Gillian Wearing (b. Birmingham, 1963) explore our public personas and private lives. This Turner Prize winner’s remarkable works draw on fly-on-the-wall documentaries, reality TV and the techniques of theatre, to explore how we present ourselves to the world.
Wearing’s portraits and mini-dramas reveal a paradox, given the chance to dress up, put on a mask or act out a role, the liberation of anonymity allows us to be more truly ourselves.
The exhibition begins with the artist herself, dancing in a shopping mall, blissfully unaware of her bemused audience. The idea of performance continues with works including Wearing’s 1997 masterpiece, 10–16. Adults lip synch the voices and act out the physical tics of seven children in a captivating film which moves from the breathless excitement of a ten year old to the existential angst of an adolescent.
Other highlights include Wearing’s iconic 1992 series, Signs that say what you want them to say, and not Signs that say what someone else wants you to say where strangers are offered paper and pen to communicate their message. In the upper galleries we enter the inner world of subjectivity. An advert – Confess All On Video. Don’t Worry, You Will Be In Disguise. Intrigued? Call Gillian… (1994) attracted a series of disturbing disclosures. Wearing jettisons her own identity to adopt the guise of family members or artists such as Diane Arbus or Andy Warhol, so revealing her own background and influence.
This comprehensive survey, which also premieres new films and sculptures, shows how Wearing is both political – often focusing on the dispossessed or the traumatised – and poetic, finding the extraordinary in us all.
£9.50/7.50 concessions (incl. Gift Aid donation)
£8.50/6.50 (excl. Gift Aid)
Free admission for you and a friend with Whitechapel Gallery Membership. Free for under 16s. Free for local residents on 24 April and 29 May. Not suitable for children.
The exhibition is supported by a fully illustrated catalogue, with essays by David Deamer, Daniel F. Herrmann, Doris Krystof and Bernhart Schwenk. Special exhibition price £24.95. Organised with Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf. Exhibition supported by Maja Hoffmann, Vicky Hughes and John Smith, and Dr Naomi Milgrom AO. Catalogue supported by Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York, Maureen Paley, London and Regen Projects, Los Angeles. With special thanks to Maureen Paley, London.
Image: Gillian Wearing. Self Portrait at 17 Years Old. 2003. Framed C-type print. Courtesy Maureen Paley, London.