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Tom Beesley — Sifting Defunct Modernity

Tom Beesley — Sifting Defunct Modernity
Dates and times

26 Oct 2017 - 18 Nov 2017

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Project Space

School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies, University Road, University of Leeds, Leeds, LS2 9JT

Private view: Wednesday 25 October, 6pm to 9pm

Project Space hosts the second exhibition in our autumn public programme.

The title for the exhibition takes as its reference an essay by the writer Martin Herbert, Sifting the ruins of defunct modernity in search of something useful (1). Artist Tom Beesley is interested in what may be uncovered and retrieved from the wide margins of history that can offer a new aspect.

Art critic Hal Foster notes in An Archival Impulse that ‘archival artists are often drawn to unfulfilled beginnings or incomplete projects – in art and history alike ― that might offer points of departure again’ (2). Beesley uses the form of the sculptural installation to engage with contemporary concerns of precariousness, change and the technological promise, undertaking an exploration of how moments of past time return to haunt the present and how the present continually repositions the past.

Consideration of the ‘useful’ and the ambiguity of contemporary art’s relationship to utility has also informed the development of the work, as has the potential of art to resist the instrumentalizing forces of capitalism. Drawing on Beesley’s own experience in design and manufacturing, he is interested in exploring the language of objects that have, have had or may yet have utility. The work seeks to reflect on the role of the artistic hand in relation to general productive labour and technologies of production, through the interrogation of use, disuse and reuse.

 Tom Beesley (b.1960) is an artist and designer based in West Yorkshire. He studied BA (Hons) Three Dimensional Design at Leeds Polytechnic and MFA Contemporary Fine Art  at the University of Leeds).

Recent solo exhibitions include de-,dis-,ex-. (2016) at Bloc Projects, Sheffield and 23:57 (2015) at Fuse Art Space, Bradford. Group shows include Prism 15 (2013) in Sheffield and Beyond Merely Assembling (2013) at Projects:Manchester.

Beesley is currently a practice-based Contemporary Fine Art PhD candidate in the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies, University of Leeds (funded by a WRoCAH studentship. His PhD research explores the joint epistemologies of his design and fine art backgrounds, using contemporary art to explore and critically engage with issues of resource use, technologies of production and discarded histories.

Image: Tom Beesley, Escape (2016)


(1) Martin Herbert, ‘Sifting the Ruins of Modernity in search of Something Useful’, Ruins, (London; Whitechapel Gallery, 2011), p. 89.


(2) Hal Foster, ‘An Archival Impulse’, October, No. 110, (Cambridge, Mass: Autumn 2004), p. 5.

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