“We live in a time when men, driven by mediocre, ferocious ideologies, have become used to being ashamed of everything. Ashamed of themselves, ashamed to be happy, to love and to create… So we have to feel guilty.” – Albert Camus, Actuelles. Ecrits politiques. (1948)
A Journey to Avebury explores the idea of contemporary guilt and its potential relations not to the past but to the future. If throughout history such a concept has gradually lost its religious or moral implications, it now seems to manifest as a pervasive and elusive feeling. In a world where everyone is so profoundly involved with everybody else, the consequences of our actions have become a shared obsession. No longer a private malaise, guilt has turned into a collective anxiety, sited somewhere between fear and hope.
The exhibition draws its title from one of Derek Jarman’s most intriguing yet relatively unknown films, Journey to Avebury (1971). Shot at one of the most famous Neolithic henge sites in the world, the film shows human traces from 2600 BC in a landscape without almost any living human presence. The past seems omnipresent and heavy creating an uncanny atmosphere, whilst the future can be felt as an impossible and absurd evolution.
Alongside this central Jarman piece, the exhibition brings together the work of six contemporary artists: Richard J Butler, William Cobbing, Elena Damiani, Sarah Anne Johnson, Adrien Missika and Uriel Orlow. Unravelling the notions of the ruin and redemption, history and utopia, failure and expectation, they stress an alternative history of the world that oscillates from pictures of a fractured yesterday to fictions of an uncertain tomorrow. As most of the pieces selected for the exhibition avoid the human figure, they are offered as cryptic traces of our brief stay on Earth. Turned into abstract evidences of our guilt, they put forward a crucial question: what if guilt was no longer the reflection of past actions but the contemplation of future events and their consequences?