Bio

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The work uses humour and absurdity to unpick the hierarchies and power structures hidden by linguistic tropes. It uses forms of both opaque and transparent documentary fiction and absurdist intervention to reveal and critically analyse control systems that lie under seemingly benign or ‘supportive’ power structures. While acknowledging institutional critique, it also understands this as a power dynamic itself, and distances itself from that lineage too. 

 

Having completed a literature degree prior to studying art, much of Rory's work stems from language, often tending to be performative or sculptural as a formal outcome. The work uses the kind of frameworks and strategies pioneered by fiction and science fiction, and hides them performatively in plain-site. Language and its inherent inability to be fit for purpose lies at the heart of these live or performative fictions. 

 

Translating classic literature (Kafka) with no understanding of the original language, and no translation aides, but instead only though belief; or re-ordering the entire contents of the Bible into alphabetical order, formally exploits the lingusitic basis of the practice directly, to unsettle the comfortable tyranny of authoritative text, even if, like Kafka, it was once revolutionary. Other work uses the idea of language more materially, (for instance, publishing essays out of focus, or using the language of protest and ‘self-publishing’, from graffiti to Molotov cocktails), or conceptually (playing Beethoven at a classical recital with no knowledge of piano playing, or re-hanging an institutional art exhibition by salary). By a strategy of constantly undermining itself, the work tries to ensure that it cannot be absorbed into the prevailing narrative as sanctioned by those in power.

Rory Macbeth grew up in Scotland and the Solomon Islands, and has subsequently lived in Edinburgh, Barcelona, Madrid, Paris, London and Liverpool. He studied at the University of Edinburgh, and Central St Martin's, London, and since has shown several times in Tate Britain and Modern, initially as part of the Art Now series, and later in the No Soul for Sale show curated by Maurizio Cattalan. He has had artwork in international collections, including key work in ARoS museum Aarhus. He has exhibited at Biennials in Prague and Liverpool and Venice, and upcoming in the Seychelles. He has made significant commissions for EAST International, The Economist, the Northern Gallery of Contemporary Art and Tate Britain, and had a survey show at Nassauischer Kunstverein, Wiesbaden. He has undertaken residencies in Zurich and Venice, been Writer in Residence for X Marks the Bokship, and has contributed to a number of publications and has been represented by galleries in Europe. Rory co-founded a large studio and event space in Limehouse Town Hall, London. This sparked his interest in providing large scale platforms for non-commercial and experimental art practices that led to him founding and directing PILOT:. PILOT :1 and :2 had successful iterations in London in 2004 and 2005, and the third iteration launched at the Venice Biennale in 2007 in association with the Bevilaqua Foundation.

 

Rory has collaborated with a range of artists, as part of the 12 strong art group Twenteenth Century, with Darren Phizackerlea as The Brians Sewell, and with Laure Prouvost on The Wanderer where Laure and Rory developed and produced a film adaptation of Rory's experimental Kafka translation The Wanderer

Rory currently leads the Fine Art department at LJMU Liverpool UK, running a unique programme that forefronts experimental approaches to art learning, and exhibiting as a key part of the learning process - currently Fine Art at LJMU average around 55 exhibitions a year (compared to most courses doing one). Rory recently had the idea to put his students on Mars for their graduate exhibition during the Covid-19 lockdown.He is currently curating the LJMU graduate exhibition on Mars (the planet, constructed from the latest detailed NASA 3D scans) online.  He has previously been a lecturer at St Martin's and Leeds Met, as well as a visiting lecturer at numerous universities and institutions nationally and internationally.