Oh, Zero, One

Ruth BealeUna Knox


Numerically ‘Oh, Zero, One’ could be the bytes and digits of a computer's smallest addressable memory unit, universally recognised as the binary code; however, this generic number starts with a human exclamation replacing the nought with an ‘Oh’. Human brains, like computers, store and retrieve information but a range of factors will always determine and affect their efficiency. Two artists, Ruth Beale and Una Knox, reveal the systems by which we collectively perceive, store and access bodies of knowledge, whilst raising specific questions about society's relationship with culture. In Beale’s case her works are informed by varying cultural expressions and the reordering of political and social ideas, where as Knox investigates the subjective nature of history, certainty and doubt, exploring and testing psychological transformation as a narrative process. Both explore the specific event, artifact or account as flexible objects, providing access to the past with the intention of informing the present.

Una Knox’s video ‘4.5 ft. and to the left, behind me’ follows a man’s journey through the labyrinthine back rooms and chambers of a vast building. Halls of storage boxes, shrouded objects, computer servers and corridors: each room is clearly defined for a single purpose, or for some compartmental function. The spaces parallel the man’s internal world, as a museum storehouse’s map of corridors become a physiological geography of his mind. This is evident by his reflection on living with a medical condition known as ‘temporal lobe epilepsy’ where déjà vu preceeds epileptic seizures, leaving him in a state of frightening confusion until the episode ends. Spatial and visual thematics continue as the man describes both his employment as the ‘gatekeeper’ of a museum’s image archive, his mental travels through the 2D virtual museum collection, and his experience as an actor manifesting emotion into 3D space.

Ruth Beale’s ‘All the Libraries in London’ is a large text work displaying the names of London’s publicly accessible libraries, from local authority services to university institutions, to specialist and private membership libraries. It is at once memorial and index, reading list and gallery sponsor list, and through its scale almost abstracted and poetic. The sense of the whole, a vast and virtually incomprehensible body of books, is also complicated by the intrinsic blurring of public and private, and the fact that Beale’s aspiration for comprehensiveness is inherantly constrained by publicly available information and library closures. Beale's audio piece, however, introduces a utopian/dystopian narrative inspired by William Morris' ‘News from Nowhere’, the tale of a visitor to a future pastoral idyll where workers are content and formal education is obsolete. ‘Now from Now’ is a journey through a fictional out-of-time London where all libraries are closed but in tact. The protagonist’s methodical exploration of the boarded-up relics is disrupted by acid trip-outs and sublime moments, conflating the possibilities of mental and social emancipation. 

Ruth Beale’s practice includes performance, drawing, video work and the collection and re-presentation of archive material. In 2011 she presented the event series ‘Public Knowledge’ at Cubitt Gallery, the first in the new programme curated by Fiona Parry, and is part of ‘The Department of Overlooked Histories’ at Wysing Arts Centre, Cambridge, in November. Her work takes on collaboration in themed discussions such as her ongoing ‘Miss B's Salons’, and didactic performance such as ‘Art for Virtue's Sake’ ICA, London (2010), a lecture on the historical relationship between education and 'culture as a social project' and ‘The Aesthetics of Power’ Form Content, London (2010), a play about fetishisation of fascist architecture. Other recent exhibitions include: ‘The Voyage of Nonsuch’, with Karen Mirza, Whitstable Biennial (2010); and ‘WHAT I BELIEVE (A Polemical Collection)’, SPACE, London (2009). Ruth Beale was born in the UK. She lives and works in London.

Una Knox’s work often originates in film/video, although print, photography and sculpture are important aspects of her research-based practice. She is inspired by instances where an absence defines a presence and by the social force of imagery to create history. Her work was screened at NEXTEX, St Gallen, Switzerland and was presented by Artprojx, at the Armory Fair, NYC (2011). She was awarded the Red Mansion Art Prize Beijing/London, UK and was selected for Bloomberg New Contemporaries in 2009. She has taken part in numerous group exhibitions such as ‘Now Then(_)’, E:vent Gallery, London (2010), a framed collaboration between Nicole Bachmann, Jasiek Mischke, E. Park and Laure Prouvost. and ‘Underground Man’, ARTSPEAK, Vancouver (2009) screening work alongside Isabelle Cornarco, Keren Cytter, Eliza Newman-Saul and Susan Hiller, Originally from Vancouver, Canada, Knox lives and works in London.