We are proud to collaborate with CIRCA, the new and independently curated digital art platform, launching its second month of programming with Cauleen Smith. The inaugural c. 20:20 exhibition transforms the giant 4K screen of the Piccadilly Lights into a digital canvas each month by pausing the adverts on screen for two minutes each day at 20:20 - 20:22 GMT. More info and watch live here:

Upon our invitation by CIRCA to collaborate in activating the Piccadilly Lights, we’ve co-commissioned LA-based interdisciplinary filmmaker Cauleen Smith. We’ve developed a curatorial programme bringing our collective ethos and experimental methodology to Europe’s largest public screen. At a time when gathering and mobility is hyper-regulated, public space is a more meaningful scenario than ever. Perhaps, for that reason, this initiative claims to imprint subjectivity and our inner worlds in such space, expanding The Showroom’s advocacy for transdisciplinarity and togetherness through art, education and community.

This project takes as its starting point CIRCA’s platform as setting as an aesthetic disruption aiming to respond to current issues of our time. By using visuality as a paradigmatic signifier for both image and sound, Smith’s work explores both the limits and possibilities of discourse, its imagery, its sonic nature and its embodiment through both public and digital space. Our online platforms serve as a space for filling in the voids, turning the volume up and dynamic storytelling. Here you can dive into the creative process and research archives that have produced the work, revealing a further radical narrative fully enunciated.

Cauleen Smith’s works compile her Instagram series, COVID MANIFESTO, which the interdisciplinary California artist initiated a couple of weeks after the United States went into lockdown. From the 13th April 2020 onwards, her hand-drawn COVID MANIFESTO points have followed both the quotidian reality of her practice in the studio and the strangeness of being out of the classroom during the academic year. Her frustrations, reflections and inspirations resonate with the eventful episodes of real life, namely, the turmoil and aftermaths of the central government management of the pandemic, the assassination of George Floyd, and the collective action claiming the end of police brutality across the globe.

Cauleen will be rewriting and revealing each point of the Manifesto throughout the duration of November. In a sort of ‘living’ still life, the artist’s desk will be the tableau, in which personal items, remnants of daily rituals, and key references to her practice will accumulate, appear and disappear. COVID MANIFESTO consists of 23 pronouncements. The project will unfold in a sequence, a crescendo, that will be punctuated by 7 intermissions selected from Smith’s existing works. Over the month, the personal and poetic, the eventful and now historical, will feature as Smith responds to Covid-19 and its multiple aftermaths.

Cauleen Smith was born in Riverside, California, educated at San Francisco State University (BA) and the UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television (MFA), and lives and works in Los Angeles and serves on the faculty of the California Institute of the Arts. She is an interdisciplinary artist whose work reflects upon the everyday possibilities of the imagination. Operating in multiple materials and arenas, Smith roots her work firmly within the discourse of mid-twentieth-century experimental film. Drawing from structuralism, third world cinema, and science fiction, she makes things that deploy the tactics of activism in service of ecstatic social space and contemplation. Smith lives in Los Angeles and is Art Program faculty at California Institute of the Arts.

The CIRCA website will also be transformed into an extraordinary archive of past projects from the artist’s trajectory, references from her ongoing research and allusions to her revolutionary imaginary, constituting a virtual mid-career survey. We welcome both local audiences standing in Piccadilly and global participant tuned in online to engage with both the scattered snippets of COVID MANIFESTO and the long form. By accessing web content persistently, you can generate conditions of possibility. The collaborative project is a call for a proposal of virtual proximity and distance, in which a series of new social relations to content and the meaning of place are entirely reshaped. It is a timely narrative providing insight into an individual’s intimate experience as shared through social media— a form of storytelling that holds a mirror up to society, one daily pronouncement at a time.

CIRCA’s daily calendar is curated in collaboration by The Showroom Assistant Curator Katherine Finerty and CIRCA’s Tony TremlettHERE

‘CIRCA offers a groundbreaking approach to communicate aesthetic disruptions on an almost unimaginable global scale. We are honoured to have Cauleen Smith’s experimental practice and powerful vision for radical utopias fill the epic Piccadilly Lights, as well as the limitless digital ether of CIRCA’s website.’

– Elvira Dyangani Ose, The Showroom Director

Created by artist Josef O’Connor, CIRCA commissions a different artist each month to present new ideas that consider our world circa 2020. Each artist is invited to create a new work for Europe’s largest screen that offers an innovative and exciting way for London to engage with art, both outside and at home, in a safe and socially distanced way.

Visitors to Piccadilly Circus will be able to connect their headphones to and receive a fully immersive audio-visual experience. The website will also stream the artwork every evening (20:20 BST/GMT). Exhibiting artists are invited to upload supporting content such as images, text and videos throughout the month, to expand on their ideas and engage a wider digital community from around the world.

‘We are honoured to be sharing the CIRCA platform this month with Elvira Dyangani Ose and The Showroom. History is being written both on and off the Piccadilly screen this November, with Cauleen Smith’s COVID MANIFESTO providing an intimate underscore to a month which will undoubtedly define our collective future for years to come..’

Josef O’Connor

Cauleen Smith Photo: Dustin Aksland

The CIRCA Advisory Council, chaired by Sir Norman Rosenthal, has been established to consult on the curatorial and compliance process, with representatives from a diverse range of backgrounds including the arts, communications, broadcasting, law and political journalism.

CIRCA has been made possible by Landsec, landlord of Piccadilly Lights, who have kindly donated media space, as a helpful boost to the cultural scene in London’s West End.

It is also is made possible with the kind support of individuals, institutions and galleries, including: Landsec, Lisson Gallery, the Showroom, Gagosian, Whitechapel Gallery, Imperial War Museums, ICA, Museo della Merda (Italy) and the Collezione Maramotti (Italy).


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