The title of this exhibition is borrowed from the German writer W.G. Sebald’s 1995 novel, an elegiac and fragmentary meditation upon history, its lost customs and eccentric figures. Sebald’s anonymous narrator wanders the melancholy landscape of East Anglia, discovering remnants of the past that prompt meticulously researched digressions interspersed with enigmatic photographs. Taking Sebald’s tone and method as an inspiration, the exhibition is similarly allusive and associative. The work of Steven Claydon and Thomas Zipp explores the nature of history and its lesser-known protagonists, and its critical moments of transition, energy and change.
David Noonan’s prints bring together fragments of the past with the uncanny power of a half-remembered dream, while David Wojnarowiczs photographs evoke a ruined, dissolute city haunted by the archetypal figure of Arthur Rimbaud. Buried traditions of European folk and fairy tales resurface in the work of Nathalie Djurberg and Dorota Jurczak. Thomas Helbig takes existing objects, such as kitsch figurines, and fashions them into grotesque forms, bringing disturbing new associations to the trace of the original object, while Saul Fletcher’s photographs provide a reflection upon solitude, personal identity and death.
Rings of Saturn is the first in a new series of five thematic exhibitions located in Level 2 Gallery, Tate Modern’s dedicated space for the latest ideas, themes and trends in international contemporary art. The 2006–07 Level 2 series is conceived and led by Emma Dexter, Curator, Tate Modern. Assistant Curator for Rings of Saturn, Cedar Lewisohn, Inspire Fellow, Tate Modern.