September 9, 2014 - Modern Art Oxford - Stuart Brisley
September 9, 2014

Stuart Brisley

Stuart Brisley, Incidents in Transit, 1992. Sala Montcada de la Fundacao La Caixa, Barcelona. Photo: Maya Balcioglu.

Stuart Brisley
State Of Denmark 

20 September–16 November 2014

Preview: Friday 19 September, 6:30pm

30 Pembroke St
Oxford OX11BP

Modern Art Oxford presents a selected survey of historical and recent works by seminal British artist Stuart Brisley.  Celebrated as a performance artist, the great breadth and diversity of Brisley’s practice is explored in State of Denmark through a range of sculpture, photography, film and painting. 

Throughout his six-decade career, Brisley has consistently interrogated the political conventions of the time. From his early projects in ’60s post-war Germany and his recurring engagement with the politics of Northern Ireland to his more recent critique of the British monarchy and systems of power, Brisley’s profound and singular voice resonates with a younger generation of artists working today. 

In a time marked by widespread dissatisfaction with our political institutions, from the protests against inequality mounted by the Occupy movement to the proposed dismantling of the Unions, this exhibition highlights the urgency of the critique that Brisley has relentlessly pursued throughout his work. 

State of Denmark includes early and rarely seen works to reappraise historical moments that chime with the contemporary political climate. This includes Brisley’s iconic sculpture Hille Fellowship (1970)—an interlocking circle of 226 chair frames that references the artist’s placement in the Hille factory in Suffolk in 1970. Here he set about developing greater communication between factory workers and managers through a series of actions.

Before the Mast (2013) is a series of photographs from a ten-day performance exploring the decimal calendar instituted after the French Revolution. This attempt to eradicate all religious and royalist influences from day-to-day life reveals Brisley’s fascination with the Revolutionary moment which has played itself out consistently throughout his career.

This theme continues in State of Denmark (2014), a new installation created especially for Oxford.  This work underscores the precarity of seemingly permanent institutions by opposing the political systems of republic and monarchy. Visitors are invited to contribute to this debate by writing on the structure’s panels.

Also featured is Brisley’s pioneering Peterlee Project (1976–77), published as a book on the occasion of this exhibition. Peterlee is a mining town in Durham where Brisley worked during that period gathering information on the history and customs of the area in an attempt to create an active social tool which would develop the town’s sense of community, rather than simply produce a mere archive. This will be complemented by a study room where key texts and resources which relate to the history and culture of mining in the UK will be made available to the public.

Brisley’s engagement with the act of painting is explored in a passage of works including the provocatively titled Royal Ordure (1996). It evokes an ongoing and increasingly central concern in Brisley’s practice; the tussle with a social and cultural detritus; real, metaphorical and imagined. Similarly, The Missing TextInterregnum 1–3 (2012–13) depicts a jumble of debris, remnants of failed businesses which Brisley discovered in an abandoned shop during his 2010 residency at PEER, London and which reminded the artist of the Conservative Party’s slogan for the 2010 general election, ‘Broken Britain.’

It is the enduring relationship with the body as subject, tool and instrument that is charted through Brisley’s subsequent works and highly regarded performative practice. This is traced through an accompanying film programme, with some of Brisley’s most prescient performances including the recently digitised Incidents in Transit (1992) and Helsinki Vanitas (1996), which address the autonomy of the individual and the instrumental forces of power, 

State of Denmark is curated by David Thorp in association with the Museum of Ordure. A new pamphlet accompanies the exhibition featuring a text by the curator of the exhibition, David Thorp.


Stuart Brisley at Modern Art Oxford
Modern Art Oxford
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