The beach is often described as a hybrid space, which lies outside the social and ontological restraints, where different orders or value systems collide. Geographically, the beach represents a transgression between land and sea, while culturally it may stand for a similar infringement of boundaries. In19th century art production, the beach appeared as a romantic trope related to a sublime experience. Similarly European and North American bourgeois society imagined itself depicted at the beach as a new site of leisure, liberated from social norms and restraints. For centuries Beach settings have been key to some of dramatically-charged narratives that have reached mass audiences, from the18th century readers of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719) through to today’s television audiences of programmes such as Shipwreck (UK Channel 4), Lost (USA ABC) or popular films such as The Beach (dir. Danny Boyle, 2000). All these narratives illustrate how society perceives the beach as a site of both ‘jouissance’ and danger.
The exhibition sets out to revisit the common perception of the beach as place of transition and simultaneous pleasure and risk in contemporary art production. This exhibition, outlined as a group show representing eight contemporary artists of different fields raises the question to which extent the beach as cultural signifier still assumes a crucial place in contemporary society. A diverse group of works (video art, painting, drawing, sculpture) will offer a current view on the disruptive and productive qualities of the clash of two spheres: the conflict of geographical entities but also different visions of the world: modernity versus tradition, chaos versus order.
The exhibition showcases recent work by Irene Brown, Jane Darke, John Fox, Cath Keay, Christian Mieves, Salma Nathoo, Sophie Jung, Judith Tucker.
The Exhibition is organized as part of the international conference at Newcastle University, which took place on 3 July 2009. The conference is organized by Christian Mieves and Philippe Cygan (Departments of Fine Art and English Studies at Newcastle University). The Exhibition has been supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), Newcastle Institute for the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (NIASSH) and the School of Arts and Cultures, Newcastle University.