John Adams, Ian Bourn, Ian Breakwell, Marc Camille Chaimowicz, David Critchley, Catherine Elwes, Roberta Graham, Steve Hawley, Susan Hiller, Stuart Marshall, Cordelia Swann and Graham Young
‘Polytechnic’ is an exhibition of video, installation and tape/slide works made between the late seventies and early eighties by a number of artists in the UK who were developing new relationships between ‘experimental’ media and ideas of narrative. The complex and hybrid works in the exhibition talk about autobiography, television, diaries, lost histories, sexuality, the communist bloc, popular culture, fictions, soap operas and murder.
Formal and structuralist work defined much experimental practice of the period. ‘Polytechnic’ explores how some artists developed new approaches to engage with personal concerns, and to reflect the social and political worlds in which they lived. Many of these artists were directly informed by contemporary debates in left politics, gay politics and feminism, and were engaging with a culture undergoing a profound change marked by the emergence of Thatcherism.
‘Polytechnic’ has a particular emphasis on video work. As well as the emergence of the domestic video recorder, the period covered by the exhibition saw artists gaining increasing access to video cameras and recording decks. This engagement with technology was encouraged through the development of media departments in art schools and polytechnics, where many of the artists studied and taught.
‘Polytechnic’ is curated by Richard Grayson, an artist, curator and writer based in London. He was a founder member of The Basement Group, a video and live performance, production and exhibition space in Newcastle (1979–84), and curator of the 2002 Sydney Biennale. He is represented by Matt’s Gallery, London.