Distress Over Parliament curated by Gareth Bell-Jones takes its title from John Latham's rarely acknowledged 1983 happening of the same name. Photographic documentation of Latham's performance, never previously exhibited, provides the centrepiece of the show. Presented alongside are artworks by Athanasios Argianas, John Baldessari, Julius Heinemann, and Rachel Reupke, each resonating and existing in intuitive dialogue with Latham's work.


Distress Over Parliament
Artists: Athanasios Argianas, John Baldessari, Julius Heinemann,  John Latham and Rachel Reupke
Curated by Gareth Bell-Jones
31 August  - October 12, 2019

lítost, Prague 

‘an action
distress over parliament to mark the occasion of its assent to acts of official censorship, conversion and contempt of truth, the bearing of false witness and assassination by stealth under cover of Royal Charter…
will take place during Sunday, 1st May, 1983’

Distress Over Parliament curated by Gareth Bell-Jones takes its title from John Latham's rarely acknowledged 1983 happening of the same name. Photographic documentation of Latham's performance, never previously exhibited, provides the centrepiece of the show. Presented alongside are artworks by Athanasios Argianas, John Baldessari, Julius Heinemann, and Rachel Reupke, each resonating and existing in intuitive dialogue with Latham's work.

John Latham (1921-2006) is one of the few genuine radicals of post-war British art. His artwork extended the boundaries of nearly every artistic genre conspicuous in Western art, and from the 1960s his work became increasingly driven by theoretical questionings. He believed the non-linguistic media of art were the keys to resolving society's conflicted relationships with objects, money and possessions. He proposed a shift towards a time-based cosmology to compensate for our sensory, spatially dominated view of the world. Latham passionately believed that this would free the mind, language and pedagogy from dangerous specialisations and inevitable divisions. He developed a theory of time – Flat Time – relating the notions of time-base, passing the time and the atemporal.

The work distress over parliament is an action, which characteristically proves hard to pin down. In a publicised event on Mayday 1983, John shot two maritime flares over the top of the Houses of Parliament. The event was produced in response to the Arts Council of Great Britain's refusal to take his time-based ideas seriously and coincided with the aftermath of the UK's involvement in the Falklands War, particularly Margaret Thatcher's defence of the controversial sinking of the Argentine cruiser the Belgrano to significant loss of life. This deliberately controversial action, intended to bring attention to the issue, was barely noticed. As his one-time partner, Barbara Steveni has stated: 'Sometimes when John was attempting to be controversial no-one noticed, and at times when he thought he was making something innocuous, people were outraged'. The small photographic prints documenting this act, never previously exhibited, provide the backdrop to the exhibition.

The action can be understood as a political act of protest but should also be understood within the broader context of Latham's practice. Presented at lítost alongside the piece are artworks by artists that resonate and exist in intuitive dialogue with Latham's work. Although Latham and John Baldessari followed different trajectories in conceptual art, in work Throwing Three Balls in the Air (Best of 36 Attempts), (1973) Baldessari reaches a similar aesthetic end to Latham from an entirely different thought process: Baldessari's red balls in the sky and Latham's red flares in the Air, poetic thought experiments, transient events captured on film.

Latham is well known for his work in spray paint, and it is logical to consider the flares of distress over parliament as an event-based painting in four dimensions. A full gallery mural installation by Julius Heinemann responds to this understanding. Heinemann considers his mural interventions as echoes of events in time, recording the different layers and shifting experience of our surroundings.

A new sound-based work by Athanasios Argianas provides an overtly durational aspect to the exhibition. Argianas has an interdisciplinary practice, which concerns itself with translations between media and the production of effect and hybridity. Finally, Rachel Reupke's artwork often operates within the interplay of the still frame and moving imagery. In the video work Infrastructure, fleeting moments of human drama punctuate fixed shots of major infrastructural hubs. These almost imperceptible gestures or acts are framed by and situated within a broader indifferent and unceasing context.

In 1983 John Latham's distress over parliament was an ultimately futile gesture of activism, heavily reliant on an esoteric and conceptual understanding on the nature of time. This radical act of protest against the British Government would be impossible to recreate in the current climate, and all that remains are the invitation and small snapshots with which Latham recorded the event. While the present-day disorder within the UK parliament persists, the unknowing and uncaring reception of this action continues to resonate.

Distress Over Parliament is conceived in a cooperation with Flat Time House, London, and the opening weekend takes place in conjunction with a gallery sharing initiative Friend of a Friend Prague 2019.

The exhibition has been kindly supported by the Prague City Hall’s Cultural and Arts Grant and Key Promotion.

Gareth Bell-Jones is the director and curator of Flat Time House, where he develops the exhibition programme, residencies, events, alternative learning platforms and manages the archive. From 2010-14 he was curator at Wysing Arts Centre, Cambridgeshire and has also curated independent projects in the UK and internationally, at spaces such as ICA, London, and Nýlistasafnið, Reykjavik. Gareth is currently a cross department tutor at Royal College of Art and an associate lecturer for MA Curating and Collections at Chelsea School of Art.

Flat Time House (FTHo) was the studio home of John Latham (1921-2006). In 2003, Latham declared the house a living sculpture, naming it FTHo after his theory of time, ‘Flat Time’. Until his death, Latham opened his door to anyone interested in thinking about art. It is in this spirit that Flat Time House opened in 2008 as a gallery with a programme of exhibitions and events exploring the artist's practice, his theoretical ideas and their continued relevance. It also provides a centre for alternative learning, which includes the John Latham Archive, an artist's residency space, and the academic journal NOIT.

lítost is a contemporary art and design gallery situated on Vlkova street in Prague’s Žižkov district. With a focus on speculative design and durational art, gallery’s objective is to present collaborations between artists, designers, cultural practitioners and specialists from other disciplines.

John Latham is recognised as one of the most significant and influential British post-war artists. A pioneer of conceptual art, his work spanned painting, sculpture, performance, assemblages, film and installation in addition to extensive writings. Latham’s work is held in collections worldwide, including Tate, London and MoMA, New York. His work has been exhibited in major institutions internationally including, most recently, at the Venice Biennale (2017) and Milan Trienniale (2014), and he was the subject of solo exhibitions at the Serpentine Galleries, London (2017) and Henry Moore Institute, Leeds (2016).

Athanasios Argianas is a London and Athens based artist with an interdisciplinary practice incorporating sculpture, painting, text, performance and often composed music or sound, and concerns itself with translations between media and the production of affect and hybridity. He has held solo exhibitions and performances at institutions including: Camden Arts Centre, London (Fellowship 2018-19, solo exhibition 2020), EMST National Museum Of Contemporary Art, Athens, The Barbican Art Gallery, London and The Serpentine Gallery Pavillion, The Serpentine Gallery, London, and group shows at: Kunsthalle Wien, GAM Milano, Villa Reale, Milan, Fondazione Prada, Ca Corner,Venice, The Pulitzer Foundation For The Arts, St Louis, MO, Centre Rhénan d'Art Contemporain / CRAC Alsace, Arnolfini, Bristol and Dundee Contemporary Arts, Art Now, Tate Britain, London, and La Galerie Noisy Le Sec, Paris, Eastside Projects, Birmingham. In 2012 his work was featured in The Imminence Of Poetics - The 30th Biennale Of Sao Paulo, Pavilhão Ciccillo Matarazzo, Brazil, in 2013 at PERFORMA 13 Biennial New York, and in 2017 at Antidoron, at Documenta14, Fridericianum, Kassel. He also participated in the 2nd Athens Biennial, The 3rd Thessaloniki Bienniale, and the 1st Prague Biennial.

John Baldessari is an American conceptual artist known for his work featuring found photography and appropriated images. He lives and works in Santa Monica and Venice, California. Initially a painter, Baldessari began to incorporate texts and photography into his canvases in the mid-1960s. In 1970 he began working in printmaking, film, video, installation, sculpture and photography. He has created thousands of works that demonstrate—and, in many cases, combine—the narrative potential of images and the associative power of language within the boundaries of the work of art. His art has been featured in more than 200 solo exhibitions in the U.S. and Europe. His work influenced Cindy Sherman, David Salle, Annette Lemieux, and Barbara Kruger among others.

Julius Heinemann is a Berlin based artist whose practice is based on the study of the different layers of perception. He analyses how perception forms "images" –fragments of continuously updated information– with which we can deal with concepts such as time and space. Through all his body of work, he formally researches the preconceived ways to interpret abstract values such as scale, colour, shape, and light in order to redefine strategies to understand, from a subjective position, our relationship with what surrounds us. Heinemann studied at Folkwang University (Essen), HGB (Leipzig), Royal College of Art (London) and recently was a researcher at the Van Eyck Academy (Maastricht). Recent solo exhibitions include Proyectos Monclova, Mexico City 2019 and 2016; Jahn & Jahn, Munich, 2018; Vitrine/Kunsthalle São Paulo, São Paulo; 2015, Barcú, Bogotá, 2015; Galerie der HFBK, Hamburg, 2015.

Rachel Reupke is a London-based artist who uses filmmaking to experiment with ideas about interpersonal communication, desire and other methods of interface with the external world. Her work often draws upon influences from advertising, cinema and image archives, using commercial motifs as a model with which to examine a particular social situation or relationship. Reupke’s solo exhibitions include Künstlerhaus Stuttgart, Germany (2015); Cubitt Gallery, London (2015) and Cell Project Space, London (2014). Her work has also been shown at Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart; Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing; Museum of Modern Art, Vienna; Wattis Institute, San Francisco; Tate Britain and ICA, London.