Russian/British artist, Alyona Larionova (b. 1988, Moscow) is interested in stories: what they’re made of; where they come from; the role they play in shaping how we see ourselves, each other and the world around us. Conceived as a response to the global pandemic and systemic injustices it has brought to light, the exhibition Alphabet is a collaborative project between the artist and Croydon’s youth collective, Art Press. The project investigates the impact of social isolation on young people and provides them with a platform to weave their own stories into global narratives of climate change and the pandemic among others.
The first work in the exhibition – a series of entry-phone sculptures with audio-play Pioneers (2022) – tells the story of two teenage sisters who find shelter in a small room from the dangers looming outside. In facing their fear, the sisters discover that the only route to safety is to remember a story that predates language. Art Press responds to Larionova’s work through embodying the fictional characters in the play. Croydon’s youth collective invents a new vocabulary using a mix of media, such as sound and ink drawing. In doing so, they connect their personal, individual stories with larger, global narratives in which we are all – willing or unwilling – characters (or players).
The exhibition experiments with new ways of art- and exhibition-making as we slowly emerge into physical relationships and begin rebuilding our communities. Both process and outcome pose a fundamental question: how do we restart and what does ‘restarting’ look like, as a community, society, culture? Parallel to the physical exhibition at Turf Projects, the work is available online. The audio works are captioned to offer wider access and also challenge the stylistic modes in which we are accustomed to ‘hearing’ sound works.
The production of this project is supported using public funding by Arts Council England. The sound design for audio works in the exhibition was developed in close collaboration with Udit Duseja, whose previous work includes America with filmmaker Garrett Bradley and Five Murmurations with artist-filmmaker John Akomfrah.