1646 is looking forward to the exhibition Swallow up, a solo exhibition by Ruth Waters. In Swallow up, Waters looks at the impact that the complexities of contemporary capitalist society have on the body and mind. She observes how the everyday must increasingly conform to perfection, and how an advance of commercial mindfulness and self-help courses places the responsibility on the individual to achieve perfection and to mentally ‘heal’. How do we relate to these swirling existential anxieties?
Waters is a multidisciplinary artist. She is interested in the causes of anxiety and how they supposedly need to be cured. Phobias, existential fear, alternative commercialized therapy and therapeutic language are recurring motifs in her work. She raises questions about our inherent desire to heal without delving deeper into what actually makes us unwell. By exploring these topics in depth, Waters aims to reveal the vulnerability of the human body in relation to the relentless and complex globalized economy.
Her work is meticulously staged and elaborated with dark humor that exposes the eeriness in the everyday. She jumps between the internal and external worlds of characters, emphasizing their sensory experiences, such as exaggerated sounds to highlight the hypersensitivity associated with obsessive behavior and anxiety. She blurs the boundaries between reality and fiction.
Research plays a key role in Waters’ working method and personal experience is often the starting point. She collects personal interviews with friends, academics, family and people with phobias. In doing so, the artist also delves into the environments she portrays in her works—such as attending mindfulness courses, chatting on online forums, or being recruited into marketing programs. These interviews and experiences form the basis of her videos, she extracts the scenarios from them, and works the languages associated with those encounters into her scripts.Waters’ works are darkly humorous reflections on the relationship between our mental health and wider social and political issues.
Ruth Waters works with film, sound, animation, text and installation. Her practice explores the ways late capitalist networked society impacts both our levels of anxiety and our ability to imagine an alternative. She has recently completed a Residency at ARCUS Projects in Japan and Kingsgate Projects in London, where she will have a solo exhibition in Autumn 2021. Previous shows include the 2020 Taiwan International Video Art Exhibition; Push Your Luck, Island, Brussels, Belgium (2019); The 6th Moscow International Biennale for Young Art, Moscow (2018); White Shadows at Wumin Art Center, Cheongju, South Korea (2018); Seep at Peer Gallery, London (2017) and Cacotopia at Annka Kultys Gallery, London (2017). She was the recipient of the Goldsmiths MFA Studio Award 2016.