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The Cenotaph Project

This panel revisits Stuart Brisley and Maya Balcioglu’s Cenotaph Project (1987-91). The British painter, sculptor and performance artist Stuart Brisley is widely regarded as a key figure in British art. Along with his frequent collaborator, Maya Balcioglu, he has unflinchingly probed the political, cultural and social mores of his time in a career now spanning its sixth decade.

Cenotaph literally means an empty tomb (from the Greek kenos, empty and taphos, tomb.) It both conceals remains that are lost or buried elsewhere, and serves as a powerful signifier of military and state power. It thus raises questions about the relation between what is ‘above ground’, state-sanctioned, revealed and what remains underground, buried and concealed.

For this project the artists exhibited replicas of the Whitehall Cenotaph, scaled down to match the typical height of a council flat ceiling, in six locations across the country. From a mute signifier of ‘official history’ the various, smaller cenotaphs opened a space for a critique of history and the possibility of change. The discussion concludes with a reading by author Tony White from a new work of critical prose fiction, which uses the figure of the cenotaph to focus on revolutionary aspects of Stuart Brisley’s work since the early 1970s.

This event results from a loose collaboration between Balcioglu, Brisley, Sanja Perovic (Lecturer in French, King’s College London) and Tony White that has been made possible by White’s appointment as creative entrepreneur in residence at King’s College, London, supported by CreativeWorks London.

A cenotaph will be on display in the Chapel for the duration of the festival and can be viewed 10am-10pm weekdays, except while Chaplaincy or Festival events are taking place.

First posted: Thursday, October 23rd, 2014.

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