Rowena Hughes has been invited by locus athens to research in the archives of the Gennadius Library and the Athens University History Museum, Greece and to produce a body of new work based on her research.
Hughes’ investigation has centered on rare books and objects in the collections that reflect on seemingly contradictory ways of understanding the physical world: either through a perpendicular logic in which mathematics and rigid rules define order or a more sensorial irrational approach which has the potential to transport us beyond language to a point where materiality speaks for itself. Hughes posits these alternative approaches in her work, and brings them to an internal dialogue. She toys with what she interprets as interdependent states, with chance and the idea of the possible, indeterminacy and systems of order. In her new works false opposites are reevaluated, reconciled, so that chance systems navigate new geometries, order negotiates with disorder, the rational with the irrational.
Visiting the rare books collections of the Gennadius library and the Museum of the University of Athens, Hughes was drawn both to the collections themselves as well as to the use of cabinets in museums and libraries as a form for containing knowledge. Inert layers of history become liquid, flowing outwards, activated only through the understanding and acceptance of readers and visitors. This tension between static containment and constant flux is a central element of her new work where categorized objects in the museum are interjected by the flux of lived experience. Museum cabinets in the exhibition are transformed into sculptural objects in which photographs, ink jet prints, scientific books and moving images are placed and played with. Through Hughes’ interventions, cabinet displays in the Athens University museum can no longer be read as objective historical narratives but instead as new ways of framing the cracks and fissures in the way we feel, read, write and collect experiences, data and history.