Grace Schwindt: Only a Free Individual Can Create a Free Society

The Showroom presents the first London solo exhibition of London-based German artist Grace Schwindt. Only a Free Individual Can Create a Free Society is a newly commissioned film installation and Schwindt’s most ambitious production to date. Inspired by the artist’s experiences and encounters growing up in a leftist environment in 1980s and 90s Germany, the film examines the notion of freedom: how it was, and is, understood; and who, if anyone, can really access it.

At The Showroom, this feature-length film is projected across a curtained set referencing the constructed landscapes within the film and expanding the cinematic space into the gallery itself. Involving eleven dancers; specially produced sets and props; and elaborate costumes created by thirty makers using aluminium, cardboard, wood, ribbon, silk and velvet; this complex production is overlaid with a dialogue: the words of which, spoken by the performers, are liberated from everyday speech pattern and choreographed into something more closely resembling a score. The script is taken from an interview Schwindt conducted via telephone with a leftwing activist as he was driving his taxi back from the countryside to the city. Over the course of the conversation the taxi driver looks back at his time as an active participant in the radical leftwing politics of 1960s/70s Germany, shaped by groups such as the Frankfurt School, the Outer Parliamentary Opposition and the Baader Meinhof Gang.

Through the bold, theatrical transformation of this interview Schwindt takes apart the ideologies and systems that guided these extremist groups. No action or element can be assumed as neutral: the cultural, social, political and economic implications of every movement, word, gesture and colour are interrogated at the most rudimentary level. Architectural elements and props provide visually striking indicators of place and time. Bodies placed and choreographed within these sets explore how social relations sit alongside political theory, and how the interaction of the two often results in acts of exclusion or destruction.Through the investigation of these dynamics, Schwindt provides insight into how understandings about oneself are formed, and into what political and social structures need to be in place in order to create a free society. Ultimately we are left questioning what freedom really means and whether it can ever truly be achieved within a community.

Only a Free Individual Can Create a Free Society is commissioned by FLAMIN Productions through Film London Artists’ Moving Image Network; Badischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe; Eastside Projects, Birmingham; and The Showroom, London in association with Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver; Institute of Contemporary Interdisciplinary Arts, Bath; Site Gallery, Sheffield; Tramway, Glasgow and Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp. It is supported by Arts Council England, Hessian Film Fund and Jerwood Charitable Foundation. The Showroom thanks Lisson Gallery for equipment support.


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