Writtle University College and ARU have merged. Writtle’s full range of college, degree, postgraduate and short courses will still be delivered on the Writtle campus. See our guide to finding Writtle information on this site.

Heavy Sentience (2014)

Heavy Sentience was a research project and co-curated group exhibition at Block 336, London in June / July 2014.

Co-curators and exhibiting artists were: Murray Anderson / Rosanna Greaves / CJ Mahony / Frances Scott / Lisa Wilkens

Heavy Sentience was a site responsive group exhibition testing a new collaborative model for artist-led exhibition production. Instead of a traditional curator led model, the five artists involved produced new works in direct response to the gallery and each other’s practices. Creating inter-dependent works, which are in-extractable from each other and the site of exhibition, Block 336 London.

The project had six stages:

  1. Residency. An intensive weekend: The five artists focusing on reactive responses to the site and the group dynamic. Activities include: Presentations, seminars, walking-tours, collaborative / curatorial exercises, and technical workshops.
  2. Production. A four-week distillation/production period away from the site.
  3. Installation. A two-week installation residency: The group will reform back at Block336, with their autonomous works, and use the extended installation period to collectively construct the exhibition.
  4. Exhibition / Public event. During the exhibition we hosted a chaired panel discussion on the project with the artists, the discussion will focus on inter-dependence, curation, considering the artists group and the audience.
  5. Publication. Including a commissioned essay from Kathy Noble with collated images and evaluation text in response to the project from the artists.

Press release:

The artists who have collaborated to produce Heavy Sentience have been deeply immersed in an attempt to make sense of Block 336's unique structural, acoustic and intensely atmospheric underground setting. Driven by this, each artist has produced new work which has been brought together in the space to form a distinctively singular, non-linear environment.

Built in 1967, the Brutalist building that houses Block 336 was originally designed as a warehouse, and has subsequently hosted a number of state, private and religious enterprises. It has also been cited as a venue for illegal raves before its conversion in 1984. Located within the basement, Block 336 even retains the cooling system for some of the first generation computers used by Coutts Bank, which occupied the site in the 1970s.

Each of the artists involved has been acutely affected by the buildings distinctively plural history and through Heavy Sentience have embarked on a collective attempt to channel this into a site-responsive and collaborative engagement. Reflecting the building’s multiple pasts and manifold meanings, the work moves between the material registers of sculpture, drawing and film, and Anderson, Greaves, Mahony, Scott and Wilkens' response is as striking as it is nuanced; Heavy Sentience is a bold and multifaceted statement that simultaneously embodies and transcends their individual and collective concerns.

Heavy Sentience both challenges and reworks the limitations of the traditional curatorial system that might juxtapose pre-existing artworks, conceived independently from the space in which they are made. Here, notions of authorship, ownership and the viewing of artwork are subject to a re-engagement, resulting in an exhibition that suggests that aesthetic, phenomenological and sentient experience is never merely our own, but is always shared between ourselves, an 'other', and the space in which we exist.

The exhibition is accompanied by a publication with texts by Kathy Noble.