EXHIBITION: Out of an instance of expiration comes a perennial showing at Gasworks until March 27

An exhibition exploring and questioning the role of museum conservation has opened in Vauxhall.

Out of an instance of expiration comes a perennial showing, the first UK solo exhibition by Los Angeles-based artist Gala Porras-Kim.

The exhibition features newly-commissioned drawings, sculptures, and sound work that respond to items in the British Museum and other encyclopaedic collections.

The artworks question the ethical principles of museum conservation and assign new meanings to artefacts which have been extracted from their original sites and stored in museums across the western world.

Ms Porras-Kim’s new body of work was created in response to research she undertook during a residency at Delfina Foundation, London, in 2021.

Gala Porras-Kim, Joined decouple, 2017. Unglazed ceramic, linen, mahogany. Courtesy of the artist and Commonwealth and Council, Los Angeles. Photo: Ruben Diaz.

Focussing on the British Museum’s collection of funerary art from ancient Egypt, she examined the institutional afterlife of ritual objects and human remains, thinking through ways of compromising with their otherworldly original owners.

The resulting artworks include concrete proposals to improve the conditions of artefacts in major archaeological collections, accompanied by letters to their directors that raise questions about institutional policies regarding the conservation of human remains.

These include a sculptural proposal for the realignment of a sarcophagus on display at the British Museum to face east, as it was buried, a sound installation that breathes new life into an 18th-Dynasty funerary stela, and a large-scale painting that employs encromancy – divination by ink stains – to ask the human remains stored in the Gwangju National Museum where they would prefer to rest.

Gala Porras-Kim. Installation view at the Whitney Biennial 2019. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Courtesy of the artist and Commonwealth and Council, Los Angeles. Photo: Ron Amstutz.

Ms Porras-Kim’s artworks challenge museums to interrogate their own histories and to be better stewards of the objects they own.

Interrogating whether it’s possible for these objects to continue to perform their original function as spiritual offerings, the exhibition unravels the many worlds colliding in these powerful stones, from institutional frameworks and colonial legacies, to stars, cosmologies, and forces greater than us.

Out of an instance of expiration comes a perennial showing is at the Gasworks until March 27.


Main Image: Gala Porras-Kim, 931 Offerings for the Rain at the Peabody Museum, 2021. Detail of drawing. Colour pencil and flashe on paper. Courtesy of the artist and Commonwealth and Council, Los Angeles. Photo: Paul Salveson.




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