press release

Ballroom Marfa is proud to present Äppärät, a group exhibition curated by Tom Morton. Äppärät will be on view in Marfa from September 25, 2015 to February 14, 2016, with an opening reception on Friday, September 25 from 6–8pm.

Äppärät is a show about the mammalian hand, and the tools it touches, holds, and uses. Taking its title from the name of a fictional post-iPhone device at the centre of Gary Schteyngart's 2010 near-future novel Super Sad True Love Story, Äppärät is concerned with labor, play, and the uncertain zone between the two; with the extension of the body, and the self, through technologies both ancient and contemporary; with things (to borrow Martin Heidegger's formulation) "present-at" and "ready-to" hand; with compulsion and death.

Featuring 13 artists from across Europe, the Americas, and Asia, from emerging practicioners to major art historical figures, the exhibition begins with a wall painting by Jessie Flood-Paddock, based on an illustration of a worker operating a loom from Denis Diderot's Encyclopédie (1751–72), one of the first attempts to record and systematize all human knowledge in published form.

From the Stone Age to the digital age, from the pre-human to the post-human, Äppärät suggests not only a neglected history of touch and of tools, but also how this might help us arrive at what Roland Barthes termed in his 1964 essay The Plates of the Encyclopedia, "a certain philosophy of the object." Visitors will encounter implements made by chimpanzees (Damián Ortega) and steel grills stuffed with spent cigarette butts (Marlie Mul); Neolithic hand-axes sitting alongside smart phones (Shimabuku) and anthropomorphic hardware (Lee Lozano); vicious shackles and traps transformed into what appear to be ritual objects (Melvin Edwards) and a meditation on the indivisibility of the holder and the held (Charles Ray). The hand is a recurrent motif, whether encased in cyborg-like armour (Paul Thek), or formed from lifeless stone (Trisha Donnelly).

Roger Hiorns will exhibit his Untitled (2012), a domestic freezer in which visitors are invited to chill their hands, the better to contemplate a series of paintings made with bovine brain matter. Hiorns will also make a new work for Ballroom Marfa's courtyard, while Sophie Jung will create a new body of sculpture and performance work.

In addition to these new works, Äppärät will feature Cécile B. Evans' film installation Hyperlinks or it didn't happen (2014), a meditation on the physicality of data and the digital afterlife, as well as Ed Atkins' Even Pricks (2013), a film in which the human—and simian—hand operates as an index of (digital) attention, the compulsive and destructive "economy of like."

Tom Morton is a curator, writer, and Contributing Editor of frieze, based in Rochester, UK. He was co-curator (with Lisa Le Feuvre) of the major travelling exhibition British Art Show 7: In the Days of the Comet (2010–11), and has worked as a curator at the Hayward Gallery, London and Cubitt Gallery, London. He was co-curator of the 2008 Busan Biennale, and curated the exhibition How to Endure for the 2007 Athens Biennale. His recent exhibitions include British British Polish Polish at the CSW Ujadowski Castle, Warsaw (2013); and Panda Sex at State of Concept, Athens (2014). Morton's writing has appeared in numerous exhibition catalogues, and in journals including frieze, Bidoun, and Metropolis M.

Äppärät has been made possible by the generous support of Arts Council England; British Council; The Brown Foundation, Inc. Houston; Fonds Culturel National, Luxembourg; the Mondriaan Fund; Texas Commission on the Arts; the Ballroom Marfa Board of Trustees; and Ballroom Marfa members.