15 July–8 August, 2021
Piccadilly Circus
Underground Station

Curated by Kate Wong

Extended until:
Sunday 29 August, 2021

The city is an organisational concept. Our relationships to each other and to ourselves are shaped by a city’s regulations and architectures. Generated by the strategies of governments, institutions and corporations, the city is a “grid of discipline”, a function of and functioning to reinforce power.

For Intra-action: Part 3, Slovakian-Canadian artist, Viktor Briestensky, presents an installation that continues his ongoing deliberation of the minuscule and the deviant as forms of resistance. Working from the understanding that we cannot ever step completely outside of the established socioeconomic order, Briestensky’s practice labours through the small everyday ways in which we can subvert power—the shortcuts, the secret paths and the tactical routes that offer a potential quick escape from the rat race of neoliberal technocapitalism.

Implemented for the first time in Berlin in 1955, Litfass advertising columns were an infrastructure designed to combat the spread of graffiti and rogue advertising. In Briestensky’s installation in Soft Opening’s gallery in the Piccadilly Underground Tube Station, three advertising columns appear in miniature, all plastered with images of the notorious fictional Italian-American mob boss, Tony Soprano. A sociopathic but highly influential character, Tony can be seen as the fulcrum in stitching together an understanding of criminal drives, as well as the mass appeal and fetishisation of the figure of the antihero. With a vested interest in the vernacular architecture of urban landscapes, Briestensky allows found objects, such as DVD covers and chess pieces, to act as guides in his process of making. Blurring the line between readymades and craft, Tony (Red), Tony (Blue) and Tony (Green) offer up a perspective through which to consider the hypocrisy of Hollywood and pop culture, especially as they relate to ideas surrounding masculinity and crime. The sculptures implore us to consider the role of signs and symbols in the formation of power.

Provolone on the dome (2021) continues a series of text-based wall reliefs in which the artist commemorates colloquialisms, as well as obscure, covert slang. Drawing inspiration from instances in which cheese and cash are interchangeable—the wrapped single slices of processed cheddar that were included in welfare packages in America following World War II; or a bank in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy accepting parmigiano-reggiano as collateral for loans—the work is propelled by the murkiness of value and semiotic exchange. If, as Karen Barad has suggested, there has been an excessive amount of power that has been granted to language and other forms of representation, then Briestensky’s text-focused sculptures reveal a manner of communication resulting less from formal linguistic meaning, and rather, emerging from association, abbreviation, humour, irony, and out of necessity.

Briestensky’s installation invites us to cross over into a parallel world that exists within the gaps and holes of our familiar surroundings. Seemingly negligible, the artist suggests that it is within these interstitial places that we may actually locate ways of thinking laterally or tactically, in spite of overarching and binary ideological systems. The artist suggests that it is within these hidden spaces that we might very well locate new ways of understanding our desire, and how it is formed by and swept up pell-mell into the incessant chaos of the contemporary order.

Accompanying text by Kate Wong

Intra-action brings together the work of Narumi Nekpenekpen, Michael and Chiyan Ho and Viktor Briestensky. Presented as a series of three individual but interrelated exhibitions, the project confronts individualist metaphysics through the proposal that there is no independent or self-contained existence, but rather, that entanglement is a precondition for being and our ability to act in the world. For the duration of the project, participating artists will be activating a live blog. This digital zone is where research in the form of images, videos, music and text can come together in a constant stream of exchange, influencing one another and working inseparably:

Viktor Briestensky (b. 1987 in Montreal) is a Slovak-Canadian artist based in Berlin. With an MFA from Goldsmith’s, University of London and a BFA from Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design, Vancouver, Briestensky has had solo or two person exhibitions including Viktor Briestensky & Wieland Schonfelder, Lady Helen, London (2019); Vaskning, To Sink or Swim, Changing Room, London (2018); Veins of Gypsum Mortar w/ Adam Shaw, Ashley, Berlin (2018); There’s Always Money in the Banana Stand, Sunset Terrace, Vancouver (2015); and [M] [P] [R] / [W], Other Projects, Berlin (2014). He has exhibited in group shows including The Fountain Show, Sundy, London (2019); Notebook on cities, Rodriguez Gallery, Posnan (2019); Under the sun, over the moon and down to earth, Tor Art Space, Frankfurt (2019); Samet Yilmaz presents, Trampoline, Antwerp (2018); A Sunset Terrace Retrospective, Projet Pangée, Montreal (2017); and Damaged Models, U10, Belgrade (2015). In 2014 Briestensky’s work, “Dude Chilling Park”, was awarded official public art status and collected by the Museum of Vancouver, and from 2019 to 2020 he ran a not for profit art space in East London called Pozi Driv Two.

Kate Wong is a Chinese-Canadian writer and curator living in London, UK. Interested in discursive approaches to art and knowledge production she works as the programme curator at V.O Curations, a not-for-profit arts organisation, and is the founder of low theory, a digital journal and curatorial project that focuses on creativity as decolonial praxis. Kate holds a BA from McGill University in Art History and International Development, and an MA in Contemporary Art Theory from the Visual Cultures Department at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her academic, curatorial and creative work is driven by an interest in political philosophy, focusing on the body, labour and virtuality. Kate’s writing on contemporary art and culture has appeared in Yishu Journal, TANK Magazine, Heichi Magazine, Another Gaze Journal and Frieze Magazine, among others.