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Painting (MA)

Laura Cowley

Laura Cowley is an artist-researcher from London, based in London (maybe she has never left London?) Her practice addresses limit, looping, embodied object-ness and paradigms of disability. 

She studied Fine Art at Middlesex University before coming to the RCA, where the Leverhulme trust has supported her in systematically disintegrating her practice.

Upcoming projects include her Wellcome funded medical humanities doctoral research project provisionally titled Humour and polemic in UK disability arts and its institutions 1976-2010, which will she will begin in September of 2021 with Birkbeck, University of London's History of Art department. She will show a new installation work Wind in hair as part of the ACE funded project Mob-shop, September 2021.

I'm trying to talk to disability within an aesthetic tradition that I would say is already entirely preoccupied with the aesthetics of disability. Paradigms of disability here can be understood as part of a project in which art objects are just other bodies and aesthetics are a system in which we try to understand how bodies make other bodies feel. This proposal does not take disability to be "more than" an autobiographical theme, but it does seek new questions, alongside narratives about representation.

I work across text, painting, print and installation in conversation with my own limits and the limits of the forums in which the work is experienced. 

I have most recently been preoccupied with habit, where habit is a virtue. I set out with a question as to whether habit could be read newly in art practices where they intersect with temporalising sickness. How could studio practice be examined through bodies that reject habit and therefore resist changing through habit, in time?

Times changed. Now I should say that this research has been in service of a new question: why would a rabbit wear a hat?


List of works above

Header image

my clean feet (call me), rabbit skin glue and chalk on pre-made poplar board, 40x60 cm

in 01. Head down the garden

the bad rabbit, rabbit skin glue and chalk on 2 pre-made poplar boards, 38 x 14 cm

in 02.Take in the Flowers

Flowers for mum, rabbit skin glue and chalk on 2 pre-made poplar boards, 38 x 14 cm

in (Games with clear rules)

Hang favours, direct print on aluminium dibond, 91 x 73 cm

All hats: gesso and thread, approx 7 x 7 cm

All text collaged from a 1941 transcript of the third, final and cut fall in The Heckling Hare (dir. Tex Avery, 1941). 

All 2021. 

“Another World is Possible” is a collaborative, self-organised exhibition. The exhibition takes place on a clone site of the Royal College of Art’s digital body – a parallel reality accessed here through the website of the institution itself. “Another World is Possible” exists in an amorphous, generative state of potentiality. Each artist invites another artist to exhibit, and they in turn invite another artist, so that the works on the site multiply. “Another World is Possible” is a self-curated, decentralised ecosystem that mirrors the alternative worlds the artists wish to see. As an experiment in decentralised curation, the exhibition website uses a customised, automated script, written by Kenneth Dow. Originally ripped from the RCA's own website code, the exhibition has the opportunity to grow exponentially, parasitically attached to the institution's online presence. Through connections in a viral email chain, our exhibition spreads as each artist in turn invites other artists from beyond the RCA. The script automatically uploads all work submitted to the exhibition. 

Exhibition text by Gayle Chong Kwan:

Another World is Possible. Can we reject the antonyms of possible? Impossible. Impro- bable. Inconceivable. Unimaginable. Unlilkely. Unpractical. Unreasonable. Unthinkable. Unattainable. Ungettable. Unrea- lisable. For Hannah Arendt, any action has unforeseen and boundless consequences, often going far beyond what could be anticipated. Natality is rooted in but goes further in its conception than the factual birth of a child, to the understanding of beginning as a force of unpredictability that is unleashed into the world, and which is the essence of political action, which she terms 'political natality'. In Arendt's notion of natality, Bottici sees a refutation of the commonplace account that we are born alone and die alone, in actual fact we are born in company. We are as not beings moving towards death but beings after birth, "We are, from the very beginning, dependent beings, notwithstanding our monadic drives." (Bottici, 2014, p.67-68) For Arendt, political life is not order, stability, and continuity, but instead can be seen as an on-going process of movement that consists of innumerable actual and potential encounters among the people in the continuity of time. Action is the preeminent mode of political and social engagement, and is tied with the notion of new beginnings, the going out forth into the world. For Arendt, through these beginnings, through art, we can model other possible worlds, and we can create other possible worlds, as political action, "In the case of art works, reification is more than mere trans- formation; it is transfiguration, a veritable metamorphosis in which it is as though the course of nature which wills that all fire burn to ashes is reverted and even dust can burst into flames. Works of art are thought things, but this does not prevent their being things." (Arendt, 1998, p.168-9) 

Arendt, H. (1998). The Human Condition Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press. 2nd ed. (Original work published 1958) 

Bottici, C. (2014). Imaginal Politics. New York: Colombia University Press.

Leverhulme Trust

Leverhulme Trust Arts Scholarship 2019/2021