Mass Observation and the Solo Artist

September 4, 2003 (Thursday) / 5:00 pm

Penn Humanities Forum, 3619 Locust Walk

Mass Observation and the Solo Artist

Stuart Semmel

Assistant Professor of History
University of Delaware

In 1937, three British men announced a project they called Mass Observation. The goal: to create "an anthropology of ourselves." The mechanism: recruit volunteers to report on their own lives, and to eavesdrop on the conversations and behavior of others.

What was the significance of this movement? And what does it have to do with the art of Gillian Wearing?

Stuart Semmel is Assistant Professor of modern British history and European cultural history at the University of Delaware. He has published articles on tourism and radical politics, and is the author of a forthcoming book on British conceptions of Napoleon Bonaparte. In 1999-2000, while a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at the Penn Humanities Forum, he conducted research on Mass Observation.

Following Prof. Semmel's talk, join us at Penn's Institute of Contemporary Art  for the opening of Gillian Wearing: Mass Observation with Dominic Molon, Curator, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, and Stuart Semmel.

Winner of the prestigious Turner Prize in 1997, Gillian Wearing has emerged as one of the foremost British artists of her generation, creating video installations and photographic works that explore the odd, unsettling, and eccentric aspects of everyday life. The ICA is presenting the first East Coast solo museum exhibition of Wearing in the United States, surveying her work from 1992 to 2002. Wearing's fascination with human behavior has led her to produce work that is a cross between sociological studies and documentary filmmaking, revealing the tension between the private self and public persona that people present.

Exhibition runs September 4 - December 14, 2003.