Open Frequency 2008: Katherine Hymers selected by Donna Lynas
Katherine Hymers, Untitled (Morning Light), 2007. DVD. 30 mins
Donna Lynas profiles the work of Katherine Hymers
Katherine Hymers' work inhabits a fragile world. A peaceful, gentle, taut, hard, sublime, fragile world. Hymers makes the most exquisite performances to camera - appearing alone, at times naked, vulnerable but untouchable and utterly distant.
In 'Untitled (Morning Light)' (2007), shown in a gallery setting on a flat-screen monitor, a young woman lies in bed in a room flooded with sunlight, sleeping and alone. Time passes slowly. The work has been shot with a low quality camera and the surface of the screen shimmers with pixelations- the effect further slows this one viewpoint shot.
Shot off centre, the woman seems contentedly alone in a world of stone flooring and fresh white cotton sheets. Monkish. Pure. Pure that is until a moment of defilement when at last she sits up to reveal herself - her back to camera - and a dog jumps unexpectedly onto the bed. A spell is broken, peace shattered. The dog is the only one of the two to look into the camera and hold our gaze, 'she is mine' he is saying. In dream symbolism the dog is a protector. She was sleeping, therefore is the dog in her dream? And is he protecting her from us? Because we have been caught looking at a woman, naked and alone in bed, waiting for her to do something and not quite knowing what that something will be.
This work represents Hymers' oeuvre succinctly. It is difficult to find the edges in what she does, to be sure of our role. Are we with her or against her? Do we understand? Are we allowed to sympathise, empathise, help? Does she need us at all? I think the answer is - no she doesn't. She may inhabit a solitary world but that world is hers alone and she is both happy and caught within it.
Hymers has a magnetic presence on screen. She is unrelentingly still and doesn't care that we might have to stand and look for 15 or 20 minutes before she gives anything to us. And even then we only get a small clue, a fragment. The rest is up to us.
Hymers also makes live performances and was most recently included in Glasgow's National Review of Live Art. Here she performed one-to-one in a darkened room, naked, raised on a plinth and following the eyes of the person trapped in the room with her. I didn't see the performance but having seen her work to camera can imagine the intensity and exhilaration of that experience.
Donna Lynas, October 2008
Since graduating from Chelsea College of Art and Design in 2004, Hymers has continued to develop work across video and performance. In association with Artsadmin, Hymers received mentoring from the artist Franko B in 2005-6, and now has a studio at Wysing Arts Centre in Cambridgeshire. She recently presented a new site specific performance, 'Closer', as part of ANTI Festival in Kuopio, Finland.
About Donna Lynas
Donna Lynas has been Director of Wysing Arts Centre - a centre for the visual arts set on the 11 acre site of a former farm 9 miles south west of Cambridge - since April 2005. She has been instrumental in delivering Wysing's £1.7 million capital development project, due to open in January 2008. The project will transform the Centre and provide state-of-the-art artists' studios and 'new media' and educational facilities. Additionally, she has developed new ways for Wysing to work with its 24 studio artists, all of whom now receive professional development support during their five year tenure at the Centre. Alongside supporting studio artists Wysing runs an International Residency Programme and also a Public Programme in which the Centre works predominantly with artists' collectives on different approaches to participation and knowledge exchange.
Previously Donna was Curator at the South London Gallery for six years where she curated a large number of exhibitions and projects. Among others, she worked with artists AK Dolven, Christian Boltanski, Joëlle Tuerlinckx, Henrik Plenge Jacobsen and Keith Tyson on their solo exhibitions at the gallery. She also curated the group exhibitions Perfectly Placed (with Goshka Macuga, Cornford and Cross, Paula Roush, Adam Chodzko and Janette Parris) and Independence (a show to commemorate the gallery's new independent status which included over 100 artists). In 1999 she established the gallery's influential SLG Live Art programme which at its most ambitious presented a durational performance of One Million Years by Japanese artist On Kawara - involving a series of 16 people performing a live work in a glass box in Trafalgar Square continuously for 7 days and nights.
From 1995 – 1999 Donna was Touring Exhibitions Organiser and then Curator at the Museum of Modern Art in Oxford. Prior to that she studied at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art, Dundee and then had her own studio based practice for five years, in Dundee and Reading.
Open Frequency keeps you in touch with new developments in contemporary art practice from across the UK. The artists are selected and profiled by leading curators, artists and writers, presenting the work of artists to watch out for over the coming year. Open Frequency represents a forward-looking glance today of the artists who will be setting the agenda tomorrow.