The Spots That Never Went
Exhibition, Photofusion, London, 21 October to 3 December 2021
The Spots That Never Went is a personal response to memories of the AIDS crisis in 1980s-90s London. Originally an artist’s book presented as a tabloid newspaper in which abstract images face short sentences, such as ‘I remember a time when the police raided bars and clubs wearing decontamination suits and gloves’, the work evolved into a larger exhibition exploring storytelling using image and text, form and live performance.
The book reclaims the tabloid format from UK tabloid newspapers and their bigoted and hateful reporting about the lives of lesbian women and gay men, the AIDS pandemic and people living with HIV/AIDS in the 1980s and 90s.
Enlarged sections of a Polaroid photograph converted to a mono halftone image create new abstract, black and white A0 prints, expressing fragmented memories and forgotten history, while also communicating ideas about life and death, loss and hope and of HIV-positive and HIV-negative status. Three halftone dots are presented as perspex lasercut works, which spread about in the space like a virus multiplying.
Artefacts are presented in unique forms and show fallen apples retrieved at the end of the apple season, some reference paintings by fellow Dutchman and former London resident Vincent van Gogh. Mitchell Moreno reviewing the show for Photomonitor, writes, ‘The apple is another recurring theme – a symbol of prelapsarian innocence and utopia, now fallen and turned bad. For the artist the fruit also acts as a proxy for his English lovers, as in “Some Are Here And Some Are Missing”, where apples lay on top of a copy of Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” – symbolising Bakker’s Dutch body.’
New work was also created during a lockdown residency at The Queer Hut, a desolate wooden structure on a disused railway embankment overlooking Cambridgeshire fields.
Two performance works, Nineteen Eighty Seven and My Son (see below, photograph by Elizabeth Doak), were performed live throughout the duration of the show.
Photomonitor review by Artist Mitchell Moreno at https://photomonitor.co.uk/exhibition/roelof-bakker-the-spots-that-never-went/
I collaborated a triptych performance, including a silent reading of The Spots That Never Went, with writer Darryl Peers to Stormy Weather, a Derek Jarman Protest! symposium at Manchester Art Gallery on 8 April 2022, organised by artist Jez Dolan and the Queer British Art Research Group.
The Spots That Never Went, Cambridge Artspace, Cambridge, Gay History Month, February 2020The first exhibition showing work I created responding to the publication The Spots That Never Went, was during Gay History Month, February 2020, at the end of a residency in the caravan at Cambridge Artworks.
Artist’s book, 2018 (Negative Press London)
The Spots That Never Went was Highly Commended Finalist of the 2019 Cornish Family Prize for Art and Design Publishing, presented by the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia.
The book was included in ‘Print: A Catalyst for Social Change’, Bury Art Museum, Bury (2019) and in ‘Salon 18’, Photofusion, London (2018). Sarah Bodman from the Centre for Fine Print Research (CFPR), UWE Bristol, selected it as one of ten artists’ books of 2018. She writes, ‘It’s a brutally simple, heartbreaking thing – we need to read more books like this.’ https://www.a-n.co.uk/news/artists-books-2018-10-of-the-best-from-irreverent-fun-to-brutal-heartbreak
The article ‘The Spots That Never Went, the creative processes and thinking behind the making of an artist’s book’ appears in The Blue Notebook journal, Vol 14, No.2, Spring-Summer 2020 (Bristol: Impact Press at the Centre for Fine Print Research, UWE Bristol).
Jan Woolf conducted a brief interview about the project for International Times, 31 July 2021, http://internationaltimes.it/roelof-bakker-interview/
The Spots That Never Went – 28pp tabloid newspaper with colour print and 4pp broadsheet supplement collated in an archival pocket – available from the Negative Press shop:
Exhibition: mixed media, various dimensions
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