press release

Whether film, sculpture, drawing or performance, Anna Barham’s work is an investigation into the mutability, contingency and evolution of forms. Her interests in language and systems are connected to those in archaeology, mythology and antiquity through ideas of shifting meanings and permutations.

In her first solo exhibition at Galerie Nordenhake Barham develops her long running investigation of the anagram. An audio and a text work respectively explore variations and possible combinations of the letters comprising the phrase “Return to Leptis Magna”. Barham equates the building blocks of the ruins from the ancient Roman city with the basic units of written language, each capable of constructing an indefinite number of new forms.

The audio work is staged by a circular two-tiered structure – a scaled-down modular amphitheatre – which functions as an inverse stage and provides seating for the audience. The structure posits the members of the audience as participants, suggesting that meaning is neither singular nor fixed but instead to be actively constructed by the listeners.

In an exhaustive body of work in the first room Barham focuses on the Tangram, a Chinese dissection puzzle, as a graphic equivalent of the anagram. Where previously she has used the shapes to create architectonic installations and platforms for performances, here she charts the history of Tangram letterforms and numerals, as well as her own designs, in a series of 191 relief prints.

In the light sculpture, A Splintered Game (2009), fluorescent tubes arranged in a combination of tetrahedrons (one of the five Platonic Solids) flicker and pulse in rhythms dictated by randomized computer code. The sequence forms momentary shapes which are never completed but constantly change, seeming both methodical and arbitrary.

Anna Barham was born in Sutton Coldfield, 1974. She studied Maths and Philosophy at Cambridge University before going on to study art at the Slade. Forthcoming projects include participation in Enter Slowly at The Lab, San Francisco and a solo show at Forde, Geneva later in 2011. Recent shows include a solo project at International Project Space, Birmingham (2010); Prisoners of the Sun at Le Plateau, Paris (2010); Stutter at Tate Modern, London (2009); and Poor.Old.Tired.Horse at ICA, London (2009). She has just published her first book, Return to Leptis Magna, written entirely from anagrams of the title. Barham has participated in two previous exhibitions at Galerie Nordenhake, Stockholm (2008 and 2010).

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Anna Barham