Kill the Workers!

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January 21 – April 8, 2012

Janice Kerbel

Janice Kerbel, installation view of "Kill the Workers!" (2012). Walter Phillips Gallery, Banff Centre. Photo by Kim Williams.

London-based Canadian artist Janice Kerbel’s Kill the Workers! is a play written for stage lights. Through close collaboration with a theatrical lighting designer, Kerbel developed a cue script for a configuration of theatre lights that conjures images of a journey of struggle and triumph. The title of the work is derived from a back-stage term that signals the dimming of theatre houselights in order to draw attention to the events on stage. With Kill the Workers!, however, the lights themselves become the focal point.

Changes in beam intensity, colour, pattern and direction provide the dramaturgy and narrative progression of the play. The central protagonist is a lone spotlight, attempting to achieve a state of “open white” by becoming one with the supporting lights. The lights become both the characters and mechanics of the composition by sharing the roles of staging and performing.

This shift in focus repositions the audience’s relationship with one of the more abstract features of the theatrical medium, the lighting design. Without a narrative script, actors or other properties that we associate with the theatre, Kill the Workers! draws on our ability to define what we perceive from what is imagined.

Kerbel hasn long been engaged with codified language, narrative formats and the components of theatrical composition. A recurring element in her artistic practice implicitly allows for certain absences in the face of traditional storytelling.  Kerbel’s work creates a desire within the viewer to resolve ambiguity and in the process heightens our awareness of the strategies used to construct fiction in literature, on stage and in the real.

Kill the Workers! was commissioned by Chisenhale Gallery, London and Badischer Kunstverein, Karlsrhue. The exhibition at Walter Phillips Gallery was its North American premier. A forthcoming catalogue will be published in collaboration with Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, Toronto; Presentation House Gallery, Vancouver; Badischer Kunstverein and Chisenhale Gallery.

Walter Phillips Gallery gratefully acknowledges the support of the Canada Council for the Arts and the Alberta Foundation for the Arts.

Janice Kerbel

Janice Kerbel has been living and working in London since 1995. She studied at Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design, Vancouver, and completed graduate work at Goldsmiths, University of London. Kerbel  consistently works with forms that promise subsequent states through the use of text, drawings, and most recently, sound and light. Generated out of the rigorous application and interrogation of existing systems, her work explores the relationship between reality, imagined ideals, and illusions. In 2006, she developed Nick Silver Can’t Sleep a radio play written for insomniacs, and is developing Ballgame, a play for a single voice. Kerbel is a 2011 recipient of the Paul Hamlyn Foundation Awards for Artists.

Recent solo exhibitions include: Kill the Workers! (2011), Chisenhale Gallery, London and Badischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe; Art Now (2010), Tate Britain, London; Singularly Significant (2009), Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery; Janice Kerbel (2008), Optica, Montreal; and 1st at Moderna (2006), Moderna Musset, Stockholm. Ballgame will be exhibited at Presentation House Gallery, Vancouver, later in 2012.