The language of precarity

Raw Nerves, running until 14 January 2023, is the latest exhibition at Hannah Barry Gallery in London.

Hannah Barry Gallery, Design Indaba alumnus Harry Barry’s eponymous gallery in Peckham, London, will be exhibiting Raw Nerves — a collection of sculptures from 16 international artists that explore the visual and psychological impacts of precarity, instability, risk, contagion and collapse.

Informed by ‘the age of precarity’ that envelopes our societies of today — fraught with imminent political crises, failing social and economic networks and digitally-saturated communication — Raw Nerves uses sculpture to capture and navigate the condition of uncertainty that affects “not only the safety of our livelihoods and relationships but the integrity and welfare of our material bodies and cognitive states.” 

The concept of precarity that guides the exhibition is defined by this description from French curator and art critic Nicholas Bourriaud: “An object is said to be precarious if it has no definitive status, an uncertain future or final destiny: it is held in abeyance, waiting, surrounded by irresolution. It occupies a transitory territory.” 

The exhibition features the works of 16 up-and-coming and acclaimed artists from around the world, namely Adel Abdessemed, James Balmforth, James Capper, Frances Drayson, Aidan Duffy, Isa Genzken,  Lisa-Marie Harris, Andy Holden, Anna Perach, PROUDICK, Mohammed Qasim Ashfaq, Kahlil Robert  Irving, Davinia-Ann Robinson, Kaari Upson, Andra Ursuţa and Gray Wielebinski. Each of the artists offers moments of intimacy, personal reflection and liberation while articulating conditions of ambiguity, contradiction and darkness. 

Pieces featured in the exhibition include “Privacy Screen” (2022) by Gray Wielebinski, a weaponised barbed-wire take on the privacy screens used in hospitals and homes; hanging yarn and steel pieces“Pain” and “Choked” (2022) by Anna Perach, which were inspired by the depiction of 'deranged' women through history; and “TEAR” (2022), a vulva-esque handsewn archival leather piece by Lisa-Marie Harris.

Speaking to the urgency of the moment, the exhibition scrutinises the economy of form and materiality, from legacies of minimalism and post-industrial production to contemporary formulations between sculpture and cultural discourses of identity, mythology and post-humanism. 

Hannah Barry is the founder of Bold Tendencies Community Interest Company and Hannah Barry Gallery, both of which are based in Peckham, South London. The curator and gallerist spoke at the 2019 Design Indaba Conference about her not-for-profit organisation Bold Tendencies — which nurtures young artists in London who have little to no opportunities available to them. 

Visit for more information about the exhibition. 

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Credits: Hannah Barry Gallery and Damian Griffiths