Nothing Happens, Twice: Artists Explore Absurdity

Nathaniel Mellors, Ourhouse, Ep-1: Time, 2016 (production shot)

6 February - 4 June 2016

Imagine Neanderthals living in Preston Bus Station and around the city ... what Jackson Pollock's wife really thought ... and how a talking shoe might gossip over the garden fence.

Preston Bus Station is part of the inspiration for Nathaniel Mellors’ new film, winner of the Contemporary Art Society Annual Award, and showing here for the first time as part of the exhibition.


A range of entertaining and thought-provoking work also includes Mel Brimfield's Alan Bennett-style take on what it might have been like to be Jackson Pollock's wife and Sally O'Reilly's talking shoe which talks to the neighbouring artworks.  It's also a rare chance to see Alan Rickman and Juliet Stevenson in Samuel Beckett's 15-minute long Play.


What our visitors are saying about this exhibition:

"Love Nathaniel Mellors’ film and intend to come back and watch it all. Thank you!"

"Just seen #NothingHappensTwice at the imposing @HarrisPreston brilliantly curated by @ClarissaCorfe Animated? … I’m absolutely fizzing."

"Innovative, top quality new commission that drew us to the exhibition."

"Good fun to spot the Preston locations used in the film."

"Glad the Harris is keeping on its toes and staying fresh."

"Really love the decision to show long video works; makes me want to come back again and again."

"It is remarkable that in these straightened times, the Harris manages to show challenging yet engaging contemporary art."

Immerse yourself in film, sculpture and painting, exploring ideas of farce, tragi-comedy and repetition with the Theatre of the Absurd as the starting point. Mellors' work is complemented by national and international artists and six newly commissioned pieces.  A resource area and family activities are also available in the gallery.

Doncaster born, international artist Nathaniel Mellors, has created his most ambitious film to date for the exhibition, the latest in his Ourhouse series.  The absurdist drama, which was shot in various locations around Preston, features an eccentric family who inhabit Preston’s iconic, brutalist bus station.


The exhibition includes four other new commissions by Pavel Buchler, Common Culture, Hardeep Pandhal and Sally O’Reilly, as well as film, sculpture and painting by eleven other leading contemporary artists. The exhibition title is taken from academic Vivien Mercier’s description of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, as ‘a play in which nothing happens, twice’.

Beckett, as with many of the artists in this exhibition, deconstructs notions of time, using it as a malleable medium to orchestrate absurdist scenarios. The works highlight the absurdity of the human condition in our relationship to each other, the natural world and the metaphysical, confronting us with situations that might, in some ways, be analogous to our own.

Nathaniel Mellors new film commission, Ourhouse, Ep.-1: Time, has enabled him to create his most ambitious work to date. This absurdist drama, which is shot in various locations around Preston features an eccentric family who inhabit Preston’s iconic, brutalist bus station. It has a TARDIS-like interior, subjecting them to a series of fantastical events while finding themselves inundated by Neanderthals. The main character Charles 'Daddy' Maddox-Wilson played by Richard Bremmer, has invented a revolutionary new theory of time - but the family's subsequent attempts at time-travel see them duped, cannibalised and trapped inside a permanent present.

Nothing Happens, Twice is part of Dance First, Think Later, a 15 month contemporary art programme exploring notions of performativity and the human condition; tragicomedy and absurdity curated by Clarissa Corfe

Notions of time and the fallibility of memory are explored in Pavel Buchler’s new sculpture Once Again that references the film Last Year at Marienbad as well as his new sculpture Acrobats.

Time and labour are referenced in Mladen Stilinovic’s Artist at Work exploring the differences between communist and capitalist influences on artists’ approaches to production.

Pierrick Sorin’s repetitious waking film is a groundhog experience whilst Pat Flynn’s film sculpture explores the fecundic power relationship between a melon and lemon.

Steph Fletcher’s work addresses the notions of a work/health life balance through the use of house plants and John Bock’s film features two elderly men whose existence is confined to a surreal office environment.

Broomberg & Chanarin bring a group of army cadets and a ‘bouffon’ into filmic dialogue whilst Bedwyr Williams collapses time in a type of self-portrait that explores the antics of contemporary Cambridge society through the objects in the Fitzwilliam Museum.

Common Culture’s new work employs comedians to perform their stand-up routine in an empty auditorium whilst Sally O’Reilly has written a new monologue performed by a professional actor using a shoe as an orifice. Performed in ‘over the fence’ tones it addresses its neighbouring artworks.

Meanwhile, Samuel Beckett’s Play shows three actors; a man, his wife and his mistress trapped in urns performing a chorus of three isolated and almost unintelligible monologues.

Hardeep Pandhal’s new drawings explore an absurdist and surreal physical and metaphysical world, whilst Hilde Krohn Huse and Willum Geerts explore the power of religious and neo liberal symbolism.

Artists include: Samuel Beckett, John Bock, Mel Brimfield, Broomberg & Chanarin, Pavel Buchler, Common Culture (Ian Brown, David Campbell and Mark Durden), Steph Fletcher, Pat Flynn, Willum Geerts, Hilde Krohn Huse, Nathaniel Mellors, Sally O’Reilly, Hardeep Pandhal, Pierrick Sorin, Mladen Stilinovic, Bedwyr Williams.  


Samuel Beckett, the Long Sixties and Contemporary Art by Dr. Conor Carville

The Cant of the Conni-Sewer: Repetition and Affirmation in Nothing Happens, Twice by Chris Fite-Wassilak

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The Contemporary Art Society (CAS)

The Contemporary Art Society champions the collecting of outstanding contemporary art and craft in the UK. Since 1910 the charity has donated thousands of works by living artists to museums, from Picasso, Bacon, Hepworth and Moore in their day, through to the influential artists of our times. Sitting at the heart of cultural life in the UK, the Contemporary Art Society brokers philanthropic support for the benefit of museums and their audiences across the entire country. Their work ensures that the story of art continues to be told now and for future generations. 

The CAS Annual Award for Museums

One of the highest value contemporary art prizes in the country, the Contemporary Art Society Annual Award for Museums supports a UK-based museum or public gallery to work with an artist of their choice to commission a new work that, once completed, will remain within the museum’s permanent collection.

The £40,000 prize, generously supported by the Sfumato Foundation, has a major impact on both the winning museum and their chosen artist: for the winning museum, the award allows the acquisition of an ambitious work of contemporary art of national importance, and for the winning artist (who may be showing widely nationally and internationally but whose work is not represented in collections in this country), the award is a stepping stone to greater visibility and provides access to national and international audiences.

Applications are welcomed from museums that have not yet commissioned new work as well as from those with more experience. The award is open to all museums in the Contemporary Art Society’s Museums Membership network and artists anywhere in the world. £1000 is made available to all short-listed museums to work up the detailed proposal including the artist’s time and contribution.

Previous recipients of the award include: The Graves Art Gallery, Museums Sheffield (with artist Kateřina Šedá) in 2009; the Hepworth Wakefield, Wolverhampton Art Gallery and Film and Video Umbrella (with Turner Prize nominated artist Luke Fowler) in 2010; Nottingham Castle Museum & Art Gallery (with artist Christina Mackie) in 2011; The Collection & Usher Gallery, Lincoln (with artist Oliver Laric) 2012; Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology in partnership with the Pitt Rivers Museum and the Ruskin School of Drawing & Fine Art (with artist Elizabeth Price) in 2013. 

Dance First, Think Later

This exhibition is part of the Harris Museum's Dance First, Think Later programme of contemporary art which has been supported by the following funders:

 DFTL Boilerplate potrait Web2



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