13 December – 25 February 2018
Preview: 12 December, 6.30 – 8.30
South London Gallery, 65 – 67 Peckham Road, SE5 8UH
“These visual threads, rising and then falling back into the body of the film, allow Sagar to create a dense and allusive work that draws on the past without becoming trapped in a form of re-enactment.” Apollo Magazine
“It’s well worth spending time immersing yourself in the films and audio recordings to get a flavour of life at the Centre.” RIBA Journal
In her first institutional solo show in the UK, Ilona Sagar presents Correspondence O, a new installation, exhibition and publication exploring the history of the radical Pioneer Health Centre in Peckham and its subsequent conversion into a gated community.
Sagar’s two-channel moving image installation presents the complex, changing landscape of public health and the social shift towards a more egocentric, user-focused and technology-infused understanding of wellness. Following a female protagonist and group of young boys, the fragmented, non-linear narrative collapses past into present, melding architectural and human physicality with historical and experimental medical research, personal testimony and archival footage. The exhibition will also feature rarely seen material from The Peckham Experiment archives, including interview transcripts, publications, photographs, letters and other ephemera assembled by the artist.
In January 2018, a publication accompanying publication will be launched, expanding the ideas explored in the exhibition. Conceived as an arrangement of text drawn from Sagar’s research, the publication presents original photographs and film stills, correspondence and the architectural plans for the Centre amongst other material. The book also includes commissioned essays by writer Owen Hatherley; Professor Paul Fletcher, Director of Studies in Medicine (pre-clinical) at the University of Cambridge; artist Ilona Sagar; Dr Felicity Thomas, Research Fellow on the Cultural Contexts of Health at the University of Exeter; and Dr Nina Wakeford, artist and Reader in Sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London.
Correspondence O is informed by extensive research within the archives of the Pioneer Health Centre held by the Wellcome Trust and Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), and contemporary medical research conducted by the Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute at the University of Cambridge. Embodying the original collaborative nature of the Experiment, Sagar has also worked closely with residents of the present day Centre on the production and development of the work.
The Pioneer Health Centre in South London was founded in 1926 in response to rising public concern over the health of working class people and an increasing interest in preventative social medicine and social experimentation. It culminated in the Peckham Experiment, a twenty-four year study founded on principles of self-organisation, local empowerment and social connection as fundamental to health. The Experiment took place in a new, purpose-built space comprising large, airy rooms with floor to ceiling windows which enabled biologists to observe members of the local community as they took part in physical exercise, games and clubs. The Centre closed in 1950 when its innovative approach conflicted with the ideals of the new National Health Service, though its influence continues to resonate.
Correspondence O has been co-commissioned and produced in partnership with The Ballad of Peckham Rye and South London Gallery. Supported by a Wellcome Arts Award. Sound Partner: Bowers & Wilkins.
Correspondence O will be presented at CCA: Centre for Contemporary Art for Glasgow International, 20 April – 7 May 2018.
Ilona Sagar lives and works in London. Using a diverse range of media spanning moving-image, text, performance and assemblage, she has formed a body of work that responds to the social and historical context found in the public and private spaces we inhabit. A significant aspect of her practice is the broad cross-disciplinary dialogue generated through collaboration with a range of art and scientific disciplines; including dance, architecture and neurology. She has a practice that explores the link between language, surface, technologies and the body through our increasingly mediated encounters in social, political and experiential space. Illusion and material [dis]honesty set the stage for works which seek to seduce, alluding to something familiar yet other.
Recent projects include: HereAfter residency White Building, SPACE Studios, London (2017); Solo Show, Pump House Gallery, (2016); solo show, Art Licks Weekend with DKUK and Ballad of Peckham Rye (2016); performance commission, The Performance Studio (2016); solo show with performances Tenderpixel, London UK (2015); solo show with performance, Vitrine Gallery, London UK (2015); Acadia Missa, Bátor Tábo Budapest (2015), STO Werkstatt in collaboration with Tomas Klassnik (2015); Art Rotterdam, Main Section, Rotterdam NL with Tenderpixel (2015).