Olivia Plender: Rise Early, Be Industrious

Olivia Plender: Rise Early, Be Industrious

MK Gallery

Olivia Plender, “Newsroom,” 2008. Installation view from “The Greenroom: Reconsidering the Documentary and Contemporary Art,” Hessel Museum, CCS Bard, New York.

April 16, 2012

Olivia Plender
Rise Early, Be Industrious

20 April–17 June 2012

Preview: 19 April, 6–10pm
All welcome

MK Gallery 
900 Midsummer Boulevard
Milton Keynes, MK9 3QA
+44 (0) 1908 676 900
info [​at​] mkgallery.org

MK Gallery presents Rise Early, Be Industrious, the first survey exhibition by British artist Olivia Plender, co-produced with Arnolfini, Bristol and Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow. Characterised as a ‘museum of communication’, four room-sized installations trace a line between a selection of Plender’s past projects, focussing on historical and contemporary forms of communication and education. Plender’s research-based practice explores numerous educational models, including educational games, world fairs, television and the internet, looking at how attitudes towards education have evolved over time. She also questions how official historical narratives are constructed, looking at the hierarchies behind the ‘voice of authority’ that is traditionally produced by educational institutions within the public sphere, such as the museum, the academy, the national library and the media.

The room installation Words and Laws (Whose shoulder to which wheel?) revolves around games, architecture and politics. This includes several toys encouraging public participation, such as the board game Set Sail for the Levant (based on a sixteenth century original) and an architectural toy (based on a nineteenth century model developed by German educational reformer Friedrich Froebel) inviting visitors to assemble civic buildings from wooden blocks. It also presents Plender’s recent publishing projects, a newly commissioned hanging mobile and various allegorical and satirical objects, including a wicker beehive (symbolic in the Victorian period of the perfect industrious society) and a Stockholm Duck House (a replica of a duck house which became the media’s symbol for the British MPs’ expenses scandal in 2009).

The New Jerusalem installation explores the relations between labour, economy and religion. A new model made by Plender represents a scene from John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, the most widely-read book in the UK after the bible between the seventeenth and early twentieth centuries. This publication was instrumental in educating new factory workers of the industrial revolution, stating that the only route to paradise was through hard work. Another, earlier, model is related to the British Empire exhibition of 1924 and how citizens were educated about the economic relations within the Empire, offering a precedent for today’s leisure and tourism industries. The installation also includes two new banners: Britannia Receiving her Newest Institution, an image of Britannia holding Selfridges Department Store; and How Paul’s Penny Became a Pound, based on a nineteenth century book that taught children the value of saving money.

A third installation titled Open Forum re-creates a 1970s style TV studio. While offering a platform for further discussion, Plender uses this room to consider mass education and the Reithian idea of television as a ‘common culture’. The installation contains research related to experimental art education in the UK including archive material from the MK-based Open University’s controversial, interdisciplinary Art and Environment course. Begun in 1976, the influential course’s chief agenda was to consider the relation between art and society, leading to the Art and Social context course at Dartington (1978–85) and also influencing Environmental Arts at Glasgow School of Art.

MK Gallery’s Foyer is transformed into an Entrepreneurial Garden that imitates a Google style working environment with relaxed seating, a coffee machine, plants, table football and basketball hoops, along with motivational prints. This installation seeks to explore how distinctions between work and leisure, public and private have been collapsed in recent times. By contrasting this recreational atmosphere with the democratic educational/broadcasting models imagined by politically radical social movements in the 1960s and 1970s Plender draws parallels between Google’s stated mission to ‘organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful’ with the claims to universality of the national library, or enlightenment museum, to ask what kind of knowledge and information is privileged by these different frameworks?

With its strong architectural dimension, involving the construction of platforms and architectural models and a deliberate emphasis on play and pedagogical, game-like structures, the exhibition invites visitors to participate and ‘perform’ while considering how social roles and models of society have been constructed over the last few hundred years.

About the Artist
Olivia Plender (b.1977) lives and works in Berlin and has exhibited worldwide. Her research-based practice varies from graphic novels to performance, video and installation. Recent solo exhibitions include: Aadieu Adieu Apa (2009), Gasworks, London; Information, Education, Entertainment (2007), Marabouparken, Stockholm and The Folly of Man Exposed or the World Turned Upside Down (2006) at Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt. Selected group exhibitions include: Brtish Art Show 7 (2011), Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham and Hayward Gallery, London; Newspeak: British Art Now, Saatchi Gallery, London (2011); Taipei Biennial, Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taiwan (2010); Altermodern: Tate Triennial, Tate Britain, London, (2009); Art Now Live, (2007) Tate Britain, London (performance) ; Athens Biennial: How to Endure, Athens, Greece (2007); Tate Triennial, Tate Britain, London, (2006); Busan Biennial, Busan, South Korea (2006); BMW – 1X Baltic Triennale of International Art, CAC, Vilnius, Lithuania (2005); Romantic Detachment, PS1/ MoMA, New York, USA (2004).

Co-produced by MK Gallery, Arnolfini and Centre for Contemporary Arts, the catalogue incorporating research material and installation documentation from the three venues, will be published later this year.

Exhibition Dates
Olivia Plender: Rise Early, Be Industrious, is an exhibition in three episodes presented at MK Gallery, Milton Keynes (20 April – 17 June), Arnolfini, Bristol (14 July – 9 September) and Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow (13 October – 15 December 2012). Evolving over the three galleries, different works will be included at each venue.

Press Office
Katharine Sorensen ksorensen [​at​] mkgallery.org / tel. +44 (0)1908 558318

MK Gallery receives core funding from Milton Keynes Council and Arts Council England.

MK Gallery presents Olivia Plender: Rise Early, Be Industrious
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April 16, 2012

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