Phoebe Boswell: The Lizards Within Us
Preview: 6 November, 12-6pm
Talk: Saturday 21 November 4-6pm – Phoebe Boswell will be telling stories and discussing the work
Finissage: 27 November, 6-9pm
Everything we tell you today is true…if you wish to believe it is. It’s all just words anyway, right?
The Lizards Within Us is a multi-sensory installation in which Phoebe Boswell uses film, drawing, sound, and interactive sculpture to examine how storytelling, nuance, and language aid our personal predilections towards belief.
In the summer of 2014, Boswell spent three months in Zanzibar, researching the island’s prevalent belief in an ulterior ‘spirit world’. She was on a yearlong residency at the Florence Trust in London at the time, based in a studio situated in a church. Boswell was intrigued by the notion of what makes a redundant but never deconsecrated church remain ‘holy’; what that actually means, and how it is upheld. Wanting to explore belief systems as a whole, the fundamental notions of why and how we believe, but not wanting to delve into the politics of organised religion, Boswell began to realise as her research progressed that nothing honest was going to come from her vantage point, as a cynical Londoner examining the intricacies of this deeply entrenched East African belief system. She would have to place herself within the work, and explore the frailties within her own body, if she was ever going to make any true and valid work about belief.
The exhibition’s central film The Lizard of Unmarriedness (It’s All About How You Tell It) is the starting point in which Boswell begins to narrate her tale. Subsequent artworks such as The Mechanics of Illusion I, II, III, Reflect and In Case of Corporeality deal with notions of ritualistic practice, identity and illusion. Through various gaps in Boswell’s narrative, all sorts of illusions and beliefs can begin to emerge from her initial encounter with the witchdoctor when he first mentions ‘the lizard’ spirit. The installation invites a consideration of belief and human frailty and what it is that gives us the impulse to believe. Epilogue acts as the final paragraph to Boswell’s tale and the viewer is left to discern what they make of the story.
Curated by Lanny Walker
About the artist
Phoebe Boswell (b. 1982) is a Britist/Kenyan artist who works across drawing, film, sculpture and animation to form a language through which to communicate global, fragmented narratives which cannot be easily explained – contained – in a single image, or a single screen film. Born in Kenya to a Kikuyu mother and fourth generation British Kenyan father, and brought up as an expatriate in the Middle East before coming to London where she now lives and works, her history – her identity – is rooted in transient middle points and passages of migration, and as such, her trajectory is always anchored to a personal exploration of ‘home’.
A graduate of the Slade School of Art and Central St Martins, her work has been exhibited widely in the UK, in galleries such as Kristin Hjellegjerde, Royal Academy, Bonhams Bond Street and the Mall Galleries. She was nominated and shortlisted for the Art Foundation’s Animation Fellowship, and was the first recipient of the Sky Academy Arts Scholarship, in 2012. Boswell exhibited her Sky Academy funded moving image installation The Matter of Memory at Carroll / Fletcher Gallery in London in 2014 alongside John Akomfrah and Rashaad Newsome, is involved in Paul Goodwin’s African Diaspora Artists of the 21st Century project. She began exploring the notions of belief systems which has culminated in this solo exhibition in 2015 while she was a Florence Trust Artist-in-Residence. She has also been collaborating with Binyavanga Wainaina on a digital literary project called Since Everything Suddens in the Hurricane.