Corin Sworn at Whitechapel Gallery

Max Mara Art Prize for Women: Corin Sworn
at Whitechapel Gallery
Open Now
Until 19th July

Glasgow-based artist, Corin Sworn, won the Max Mara Art Prize for Women in January 2014 and as part of the prize was awarded a 6 month residency in Italy to be divided between Rome, Naples and Venice. This wonderful new installation at The Whitechapel Gallery is the result of that residency.

© The London Art File

Sworn spent her Italian residency researching the history and the culture of the Commedia dell’Arte, an important traditional Italian form of theatre that originated in the 16th century. Commedia dell’Arte has inspired artists from Goya to Picasso and even Shakespeare. In particular Sworn became interested in the theatrical device, common in Commedia dell’Arte, of mistaken identity – women dressed as men, masters swapping places with servants – revealed to dramatic, and sometimes comedic, effect.

© The London Art File

In this installation, Corin Sworn draws on the characters and narratives of this historical artform to create a work made up of theatrical costumes and props combined with video and audio. The audio retells the story of Martin Guerre, the famous tale of the returning impostor soldier, while the video shows two aerialist acrobats performing along with the storytelling. The two screens showing the video are surrounded by costumes and theatrical props – swords, daggers, fake beards, gloves, strings of pearls, candles, trumpets – all connected to original Commedia dell’Arte scripts.

© The London Art File
I loved this work by Corin Sworn. She has clearly immersed herself not only in Commedia dell’Arte but also the history and culture of Italy itself. The broken up pieces of this installation are like Italy – all ostensibly part of the same thing but intrinsically very disparate. Each Italian city that Sworn lived in for her residency (Rome, Venice, Naples) has an immensely strong sense of individual identity and this work reflects that. The video of the acrobatic feats recalls the physicality of the Commedia dell’Arte whilst the costumes packed in travelling trunks suggest the peripatetic theatrical troupes that toured the country. And Sworn has managed to combine all this without being in the slightest bit overly literal. A feat in itself. Brava!

Exhibition open until 19th July

Admission: FREE
Map of whitechapel gallery
Opening Hours:
Tuesday – Sunday 11am – 6pm
Late until 9pm on Thursdays
Closed Mondays

Whitechapel Gallery
77-82 Whitechapel High St
London E1 7QX

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