Video presentaion at SALT Galata
Commissioned jointly by Jerwood Arts and Film and Video Umbrella, the works were intended to mark the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, commonly known as Brexit. During the first public exhibit, however, Brexit was delayed once again, pushing the country into further crisis.
Departing from the withdrawal decision and the continuous heated debate surrounding it, both of the videos reference mounting civil anxieties and uncertainties embedded in the recent past and extending into the immediate future.
“Webb-Ellis have regularly involved young people in their projects, and their two-screen channel installation ‘For the First Baby Born in Space’ is no exception,” according to SALT Galata’s website.
Filmed during the long, hot summer of 2018 and featuring a number of teenagers from the artists’ home base of North Yorkshire and elsewhere, the video gives voice to the youth who have had little say in the tumultuous political events that have unfolded around them, or in the nature of the world they will inherit.
Talking to them about their hopes, aspirations and fears, the work records how their coming of age coincides with a time when so much else is in flux. These young people are a bellwether of Britain at large in a way: Their confusion is a mirror of the turmoil of a country that, like them, faces an uncertain future.
In Whitby’s video, “The Lost Ones,” a motley queue of individuals are all seeking salvation. They are people in limbo whose personal circumstances or economic situations have been suddenly reevaluated and their future status now seems conditional on a test that they need to pass. While equally indebted to the dystopias of Orwell and Kafka, with their intimations of everyday bureaucracy spiraling out of control, Whitby’s parable takes particular aim at the collateral effects of Brexit and the narrowing horizons of a country where people’s right to remain is increasingly rebuffed and where unwelcome “outsiders” are told to expect to face a so-called “hostile environment.”