Curated Selection Prize 2014: Possessed curated by Denise Courcoux

Cathy Lomax, The Sixteen Most Beautiful Men, 2012

Denise Courcoux, the first of our three Curated Selection Prizewinners for 2014, presents a selection of work from the directory which investigates fandom and personal obsession

Selected artists:

Rebecca Chesney, Adam Goodge, David Hancock,
Nicola Hands, Cathy Lomax, Marc Renshaw

Obsessions, deeply personal and often peculiar to anyone but their owners, are the subject matter for this exhibition. The longing to possess a little of something one admires can lead to consuming preoccupation. The works in Possessed are all characterised by a quest to acquire a meaningful closeness to a distant object of desire. The exhibition examines the behaviours and symptoms of fandom through artistic practices: compulsive repetition, a fascination with minutiae, wild theorising, imitation and blind adoration.

Personal passions are a source of pleasure and escapism, but at the same time the intangibility can lead to frustration. Possessed demonstrates the genuine affection generated by unrequited desire and a wry sense of humour in the face of absurdity that many fanatics will recognise. It also, however, reflects the isolating nature of devotion, and the inescapable dissatisfaction of trying to reach the unattainable.

  • Rebecca Chesney

    Rebecca Chesney, A sorrowful sight i saw, 2012

    A sorrowful sight i saw, 2012

    For the Brontë Weather Project, Rebecca Chesney installed a weather station at the home of the famous literary sisters in Haworth, a place of pilgrimage for Brontë fans from around the world. The resulting data, along with historic records, was cross-referenced with descriptions of weather in the writing of the Brontës, to explore how this aspect of their daily lives would have affected both their personal lives and creative output. This work’s title is taken from the novel Wuthering Heights, which chronicles the destructive effects of all-consuming infatuation. The lyricism of the words contrasts starkly with the cool formality of the mathematical graphic produced by Chesney.

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  • Adam Goodge

    Adam Goodge, Cliff Richard and The Communist Manifesto, 2010

    Cliff Richard and The Communist Manifesto, 2010

    In this performance lecture, Adam Goodge seeks to make a seemingly absurd connection between the career and songs of pop legend Sir Cliff Richard and Marxist theory. The lyrics of Nothing’s Impossible, from the 1961 film The Young Ones, are dissected to reveal an anti-Capitalist anthem, apparently devised by Richard ‘to unite workers and in particular the burgeoning youth culture into believing in a communist revolution’.  Goodge’s confidence in the truth of his research echoes the skewed perspective of conspiracy theorists, in its mix of irrational selectiveness and alluring plausibility.

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  • David Hancock

    David Hancock, Potzu as Sassori, 2011

    Potzu as Sassori, 2011

    David Hancock’s work has frequently explored escapism through gaming, musical subcultures and, here, through cosplay.  A portmanteau term formed of ‘costume play’, cosplay allows its participants to dress up in meticulously recreated clothing and adopt the role of a fictional character, often taken from Japanese manga and anime. Hancock’s portraits portray the complex space between reality and fiction that cosplayers inhabit. Flaws and flourishes in costumes are not airbrushed out, so that the subjects are never entirely present as their characters or themselves. Hints at an imagined landscape are offered, but not fully revealed to the uninitiated

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  • Nicola Hands

    Nicola Hands, Untitled (Misery), 2009

    Untitled (Misery), 2009

    The mania of the music fan is presented in all its gaudy glory in Nicola Hands’s installations. Her kitschy miniature shrine to American rock band KISS appropriates the highly decorative style of Roman Catholic sites of devotion, thus alluding to a literal worship of celebrity. The touching homemade aesthetic of the shrine, with its carefully assembled collage of magazine cut-outs, is offset by the video above it. This plays a loop of an infamous ankle-breaking scene in the horror film Misery, adapted from the Stephen King novel, which vividly illustrates the more disturbing side of fandom.

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  • Cathy Lomax

    Cathy Lomax, The Sixteen Most Beautiful Men (in profile) , 2012

    The Sixteen Most Beautiful Men (in profile) , 2012

    The Sixteen Most Beautiful Men, selected from the world of cinema, range from early screen icons like Montgomery Cliff to current stars such as Ryan Gosling. This is no cinematic history, however; the line-up of profile portraits is not arranged chronologically, but in a highly subjective sequence according to the placement of each face.  In the manner of Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests, which were compiled into sets such as 13 Most Beautiful Women and 13 Most Beautiful Boys, these Hollywood actors are stripped of their screen and celebrity personas and presented here as objects of desire, in an examination of male beauty and yearning for the unobtainable.

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  • Marc Renshaw

    Marc Renshaw, The Sporting League Statistics Detail., 2013

    The Sporting League Statistics Detail., 2013

    A close look at The Sporting League Statistics reveals that these pages of painstakingly handwritten football results are not quite what they seem.  Teams such as ‘Bayerns’, ‘Universo Collunteen’ and ‘Novis’ do not exist anywhere outside the imagination of Marc Renshaw.  Born from a fascination with football league tables, The Sporting League was formed in 1985, when the artist was aged six, and since 2002 Renshaw has transcribed the resulting data to create ‘a lifelong archive of hopes, fears and dreams’. Regardless of the reality of his endeavour, this fan’s dedication is unshakeable.

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Denise Courcoux, May 2014


About Denise Courcoux

Denise CourcouxDenise lives in Liverpool and is currently studying for MA Art Gallery & Museum Studies at the University of Manchester. Here she tells us more about the course, her career and how she approached her curated selection.

Tell us about your background
I’m from Coventry and moved up to Chester in 2002 to study for my BA in Fine Art with English Literature. I've been a volunteer and worked on a casual basis at galleries including the Walker Art Gallery, A Foundation, Tate Liverpool and the Bluecoat.

I started working as an Information Assistant at the Bluecoat in Liverpool when it reopened in 2008 following a big capital development. Since 2009 I have been working on the exhibitions programme in the role of Gallery Coordinator.

Why did you embark on your MA?
It had been seven years since I completed my BA and I started to miss being in a university environment and the way it encourages you to think about things critically, something that you often don’t have time to in a busy day job.

Why did you choose your MA course?
The MA Art Gallery and Museum Studies course at The University of Manchester is well established and has a very good reputation. The scope of the modules really appealed to me, offering the opportunity to choose a path tailored to my particular interests.

What in particular have you got from your MA course so far?
The reading I have done has really pushed me to question different aspects of the art gallery and museum world, and attempt to put them into a wider context. Also, I have loved being able to talk about issues with a range of people from very varied backgrounds – I have coursemates and tutors who have non-art backgrounds such as Egyptology or Archaeology, so it’s great to get different takes on museum practice!

How did you come up with the theme of your curated selection?
Fandom and personal obsessions are something I find absolutely fascinating, and often very revealing. Lars Laumann’s film Morrissey Foretelling the Death of Diana, shown at Open Eye Gallery during the 2010 Liverpool Biennial, was very odd and stayed with me.

What has winning the curated selection prize meant to you?
I really enjoyed the whole exercise. Having my writing and ideas validated by the selection panel has given me a huge confidence boost. I hope it will be a springboard for me to progress in a curatorial career as I come to the end of my MA course.

And finally what have you got your eye on at the moment?
I’m researching artist-curated exhibitions for my dissertation, and have particularly enjoyed the Hayward Touring exhibitions The Universal Addressability of Dumb Things (curated by Mark Leckey) and All That Is Solid Melts Into Air (curated by Jeremy Deller).   I find artist-curated projects are often really visually dynamic and do interesting things with interpretation, so it’s a great topic to get my teeth into.

View Denise's Axisweb profile >


About the Curated Selection Prize 2014

Earlier this year, we asked MA Curating, History of Art and Critical Writing students from across the country to enter our Curated Selection Prize. The brief was to take a look at the Axisweb directory and curate an online exhibition for the website. To enter they had to select a theme, find six art works connected to that theme and write up their choice for our features section.

The three winners are:

Denise Courcoux
MA Art Gallery & Museum Studies, University of Manchester

Laura Dennis
MA Curation, Norwich University of the Arts (NUA)

Anneka French
MA History of Art and Design, Birmingham City University

They have been awarded £300, one year’s Art Professional Membership and their selection will be published on Axisweb. 


Related Content on Axisweb

Curated Selection Prize 2014: Synthetic Landscapes curated by Laura Dennis >

Curated Selection Prize 2014: The Artists' Archive curated by Anneka French >

Previous Curated Selections >

More about the Curated Selection Prize 2014 >

Browse the directory to curate your own selection >