Name-changing performance art: Marvin Gaye Chetwynd & Cousin Itt

Nichola Jacques
Installation by Marvin Gaye Chetwynd

Marvin Gaye Chetwynd, the name-changing performance artist, brings her first solo show to the Nottingham Contemporary.

For her first solo exhibition at a public gallery in Britain, Marvin Gaye Chetwynd – the artist formerly known as Spartacus Chetwynd – evokes an elaborate world of fictional characters and carnival-esque performance. Chetwynd does not underestimate the analytical powers of her audience; the exhibition is a “fun puzzle” to be deciphered. Beneath a low-fi, DIY aesthetic where cardboard and sticky tape reign as the dominant materials, the 2012 Turner Prize nominee constructs a complex web of references to both classical literature and popular culture.

Chetwynd privileges the moment of action, the live event, the energy of performance

Wandering around the gallery space you will encounter a representation of The Addams family’s very own Cousin Itt whilst the grinning Catbus – think a cat-shaped, soft-play bus, a reference to the 1988 Japanese anime film My Neighbour Totoro – provides a snug haven from which to enjoy floor-level screenings of Chetwynd’s staged performances. Her props and installations are “made impatiently, with a lust for life”. They are the residual elements of past performance, the aftermath of a moment of action. Yet, to view the exhibition as a series of static, lifeless artefacts devoid of their theatrical potential is almost to miss the point. Chetwynd privileges the live event, the energy of performance.

Chetwynd preceded Tino Seghal (one of the stars of last year’s MIF) as the first performance artist to be nominated for a Turner Prize, and the artist acknowledges the practical challenges of presenting her work in a “white cube” gallery setting. With this in mind, a visit to Chetwynd’s exhibition at the Nottingham Contemporary would be best arranged to coincide with the programme of live performances, which will breathe life into the gallery space. Expect Starship Troopers, drag acts and a debt management group reminiscent of Weight Watchers. Oh, and did we mention the cat-shaped bus?

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