Goshka Macuga: Objects in Relation

Artvehicle 21/Review

30th June 2007 — 14th October 2007

An archival tendency rings through the work of Goshka Macuga. Through the meticulous trawling of collected documentation, found objects and art works Macuga enters into previous moments in time to reveal the individuals around which such moments gravitated. In 2003, she honed in on the 19th century architect and collector Sir John Soane to recreate his picture room (Gasworks, London). In 2006, the Theosophical Society (1837-1907) and its co-founder Helena Blavatsky inspired her installation The Sleep of Ulro (The A Foundation, Liverpool). For her current Art Now exhibition, Objects in Relation, Macuga has delved into the Tate Archive in order to focus in on Paul Nash and Unit One, a cross-disciplinary group of architects, painters and sculptors founded by Nash in 1933.

Upon entering the exhibition space the accompanying explanatory text indicates that 'collage is an integral tool in Macuga's practice'. Indeed, the space itself reads as one enlarged collage, into which the viewer enters. Upon entry, the near left corner features a Yew trunk, holding, within a cutaway, a photograph and sketchbook. This assemblage stands abreast of an intaglio print, lithograph and facsimile letter and downstage from a diving platform and Russian diving suit. The breadth of materials used within this exhibition is compelling and ambitious. Within Tate Britain's compact Art Now space, Macuga endeavours to capture and represent something of the essence that lead to the development of British Surrealism, featuring work by Edward Burra, Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore and Edward Wadsworth. The 'List of Works', if looked over by the viewer, proves to be an intriguing addition to this process of representation. Itself, a tool for documentation, archiving Macuga's displaying of the archive, the 'List of Works' is an amusing combination of the clearly informative and the opaque. The works of other artists used within the space are obligatorily attributed, followed by the brief biographical detail of birth and death dates and Tate Archive numbers, while additions to such works made by Macuga and other displayed found objects are loosely classified as 'object', 'mixed media' or 'assemblage of ephemera'.

Macuga, the artist as personality, lies low throughout her own exhibition, which admirably facilitates the revealing of the individuals she has chosen to present. The 'Selection of Unit One letters' is particularly successful in doing this. A staccato reading of the formation and progression of Unit One is offered by a cross-section of letters sent between the members of this group. Interspersed around the exhibition space and interrupted by the other objects that make up the exhibition a fragmentary yet endearing narrative emerges. Draft handwritten letters spill over page margins with text wrapping around the edges of a page. Re-drafted and typed-out versions of the previous feature the occasional error or erased section. These human traces on facsimiles suggest tensions, complications, successes and urgencies. The viewer can mull over the potential once contained in these letters, potential that was long ago realised and is now re-configured in the deliberately incomplete cross-section that Objects in Relation offers.


Tate Britain
London SE1 9TG

Daily, 10am-5.50pm

Goshka Macuga: Objects in Relation —  Goshka Macuga  Objects in Relation  Installation shot  Courtesy the artist and Kate McGarry  (c) Tate photography Photo: Photocredit, Sam Drake

Goshka Macuga
Objects in Relation
Installation shot
Courtesy the artist and Kate McGarry
(c) Tate photography
Photo: Photocredit, Sam Drake