After the Fall

Exhibition, Ruskin Gallery, Cambridge, 2019

Awarded 2019 Cambridge Artworks Residency

A multi-layered narrative-based body of work, After the Fall responds to the aftermath of two unconnected bicycle accidents both involving head injuries, one fatal. The work addresses the vulnerability of the human body and explores ideas around mortality, memory loss, trauma, recovery, remembrance and the healing power of nature, as well exploring the potential of being horizontal in a public space as a live human sculpture.

In After The Fall, I respond to the physical and mental impact of having been involved in a bicycle accident while living in Cambridge, connecting it to the fatal accident of a London cyclist two years previously. In a witness account I wrote at the time, I describe the scene of a female cyclist lying unconscious on a London street, reminding myself to ‘remember to buy a bicyle helmet’, something I had failed to do.

To test the functionality of my memory, I learnt the words of the witness account by heart, the experiment leading me to explore the dynamics of performance, reciting the text, China Doll White, with my eyes closed lying on the floor, adopting the body position of the cyclist described.

While visiting a cemetery in Amsterdam I stumbled upon and photographed a monument to 19th century Dutch painter Therese Schwartze made by her sister sculptor Georgine. The sculpture echoes the body position of the London cyclist and a black and white photograph of this monument functioned in the exhibition as a memorial to the unknown London cyclist.

Other photography-based artefacts explore stereo photography, book arts, appropriation, the hand-made, digital printing on porcelain, as well as manual digital image manipulation and large format printing. The main work in the show, a bleeding impression of my bandaged head, was fixed to the wall with hundreds of nails, the action of hammering repeating the violence of the accident.

Works in the show respond to the site of the accident, address the experience of memory loss, recovery and bring attention to the kindness and care of strangers. Two works explore the healing powers of gardens in photographs recorded at Cambridge Botanic Garden, green spaces I often visited and photographed as part of my recovery process.

Broken, knotted rubber bands expose physical signs of damage and repair, of trauma and healing, while at the same time creating cohesion between artefacts in the exhibition. The bands also function as a means to reach out to visitors in the space and imagine a world beyond the gallery, exploring new connections and opportunities.

During the exhibition, I performed China Doll White twice a day taking advantage of the gallery’s chapel-like acoustics, adding my physical presence and voice to the exhibition, the performance temporarily changing the show’s dynamics as well as introducing physical vulnerability and fragility.

The Ruskin Gallery exhibition (MA Fine Art 2019, Cambridge School of Art) was awarded the 2019 Cambridge Artworks Residency.

After the Fall, mixed media. various dimensions

China Doll White (In rehearsal, 30 July 2019), high definition video, colour, sound, 3:33 min, 2019

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Roelof Bakker, all rights reserved, 2024