Limerick, Ireland
Joanna Hutton, Stack, 2015, installation. Photo: Miriam O'Connor, courtesy of the artist and BALTIC.

Joanna Hutton

b. 1968, UK

In her work, Joanna Hutton creates sculptures, installations, and videos. A performance or activity often occurs, as the artist proposes situations for which the outcome is uncertain. There is an obsessive interference – a prodding, nudging, adjusting, defining – an inability to leave things to run their course. Situated within a political and ethical framework, Hutton’s concerns respond to societal responsibility; that is, the current situation humanity faces is an immensely potent one. Several themes are explored such as transfer and exchange, circularity and repetition, transition and depletion, borders and boundaries, trace and the absence of presence.

Stack (2015) is a performance installation that comprises a printer with a white bond paper roll inserted, a laptop connected to the printer, and A4 office paper. The printer remains switched on and images are sent from the artist’s smartphone to the laptop. The paper is stacked in a column to the maximum height of 1.7 metres, which matches the height of the artist. Paper is added in sections, approximately 10 centimetres wide each time. The column becomes unstable as it grows taller, and eventually the structure needs to be adjusted or supported. However, the artist has to leave the growing stack to gather more paper. At some point the stack cannot maintain its structure and collapses with a loud and powerful sound, as the paper hits the ground and disperses a length of approximately 5 to 8 metres. The artist replaces any paper she is holding at the time of the fall and leaves the room.

At the beginning of the next performance, the fallen papers from the previous performance are photographed on the artist’s smartphone, sent to the laptop, and printed out onto the roll of white paper. The obsolescence of the printer and error messages received from the printer make this activity problematic. The third performance begins with any of the remaining paper that was not stacked at the previous performance.  

The performance acts as both research of a performative sculptural form and as a metaphor of the relationships between human beings – an embodiment of political and societal processes. When placed together, the papers demonstrate their collective power. The stack is inherently unstable as it builds up and has to be managed and guided, or even coaxed. It is a balance that seems to infer a power struggle between two parties – the will of the many with its own purpose. After the paper has fallen, the remnants of the power struggle remain. The performance evokes the exact moment when there is a change from stability to instability, and this is repeated over and over. The inevitable outcome is obvious but despite this there is an extraordinary tension that develops in waiting for the resolution.

Joanna Hutton is a UK-based artist, whose practice comprises installation, sculpture, and performance. In her work, she employs everyday materials and found objects. She received a first-class BA (Hons) Fine Art degree from Northumbria University. She completed an MFA in 2015 at BxNU Institute of Contemporary Art, Northumbria University, after being awarded the MFA ‘Brighter Future’ scholarship. Hutton is currently Associate Fellow at the research centre Paper Studio Northumbria (PSN), Northumbria University. She is founder and director of Neon Arts, established in 2013.

Hutton’s most recent exhibitions include: Paper, Table, Wall and After (2015), National Taiwan University of Arts; Milkilling (2015), BxNU MFA; SEMI (2015), BALTIC 39, Newcastle upon Tyne; Be My Master Choir / A Response, a Chorus (2014), BALTIC 39, Newcastle upon Tyne; shift (2014), 36 Lime Street Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne; Postcards to America (Exchange Rates) (2014), Studio 10 Gallery, Brooklyn, New York; BxNU MFA Interim Exhibition (2014), BALTIC 39, Newcastle upon Tyne; 12HRS on Tyne (2014), Northern Charter, Newcastle upon Tyne; Open Studios – Late Shows (2014), BALTIC 39, Newcastle upon Tyne; Investigate Inebriate (2014), Kings Arms, Salford; Reference Frame (2014), NewBridge Project, Newcastle upon Tyne; INTERCHANGE Drive-In Double Bill (2014), Hexham, Northumberland; Shy Tworls (2014), BALTIC 39, Newcastle upon Tyne; Verb #5 (2013), Bankley Studios, Levenshulme, Manchester; SHOW (2013), Neon Arts, Hexham, Northumberland; 12HRS #5 (2013), Bankley Studios, Levenshulme, Manchester; Sluice (2013), 47–49 Tanner Street, Bermondsey, London; Flesh (2013), Neon Arts, Hexham, Northumberland; and ripe. (2013), BALTIC 39, Newcastle upon Tyne.

(Text: EVA 2016, Still (the) Barbarians, catalogue)


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