Question Centre presents Clementine Keith-Roach | Steve Jobs: Curated by Maria do Carmo M.P. de Pontes

17 - 30 November 2019

The Manual


On its sixth edition, Question Centre is thrilled to present a new work by Clementine Keith-Roach alongside a Macintosh 512K, the second generation of Macintoshes to ever be produced.


There’s an intrinsically perverse timeline on show. The newest object alludes in fact to a pre-historical form1 whereas the oldest one, now obsolete, stands for a fairly new creation in terms of history. They share a similar scale and colour scheme, and are displayed over a long plinth under a same hierarchy of values. They are also equally revolutionary in terms of the new order that they’ve imposed on our daily lives, and it’s astounding how the basic shape of the vessel has hardly changed over the past several centuries. Both vessel and computer carry within a metaphoric value as storage units while alluding to labour and functionality. Yet placed together they become sculptural objects.


Clementine Keith-Roach’s practice essentially blends notions of found objects and manual labour. The artist’s starting point is often Mediterranean storage vessels that have histories of use, revealed both in the aged patina of their surface and in the residue of the commodities they have held. She anthropomorphises their form with casts of her own body. There is a striking smoothness in the resulting objects, as if the hands that make these pieces and the resulting works – the old tale of creature and creator – had always belonged together as one single body. The artifice is reinforced by the choice of colours and treatment of the surface, as all added parts follow the original colour scheme of the vessel, which inevitably spans brown, beige or rusty-ish tones that are natural of clay. The hands’ shapes are always anew, seductive but never vulgar, seemingly partaking in a particular dance or vocabulary that obeys their own terms and whose codes are unknown. They point, invite, suggest and demand, like oracles that are quick to answer questions in whatever biased ways the viewers want to interpret them. For instance, the work on show presents three hands, one of which, placed on top of the sculpture’s mouth, contains coins; whether that’s an offer or a demand to the viewer is entirely up to interpretation.


The Macintosh was not the first personal computer to ever be commercialised. Nor was it the first such machine to be created by Apple Inc. Its development started in 1979 and ran concurrently to that of Apple Lisa, which had commenced a year prior within the same company but under different teams. Steve Jobs, who alongside Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne had founded Apple Inc. in a Palo Alto garage in 1976, was in charge of both designs – that is, until he got kicked out of Lisa’s team. The greatest, revolutionary differentials of the product were its Graphical User Interface (GUI) and a mouse. Two days before the Apple Macintosh – later rebranded Macintosh 128K – was released in the market, the lavish commercial ad of the machine premiered during Super Bowl, on 22 January. Titled 1984 both after that calendar year and George Orwell’s dystopian novel and directed by Ridley Scott, it featured a hot blond woman setting the minds of inebriated, obedient men free from the chains of the big brother. If in times of exceedingly political correctness the treatment of that female character, aligned with an aesthetic reminiscent of Leni Riefenstahl’s propaganda films, would mean a probable boycott to the product, the computer was generally well-received by the public back then. This is the class of computers that Apple continued to invest in over the subsequent years, and the one that’s on market to this day. The impact that particular creation and its offsprings had, and continues to exert, in the realms of fashion, art, vocabulary, interpersonal relationships, and indeed in terms of the way we speak out for relevant causes, cannot be underestimated – the least of all accurately assessed.


Question Centre is a nomadic platform of exhibitions that draws on generational bonds among artists, making use of both conventional and unconventional art spaces. It presents fresh works by a contemporary artist alongside a piece by a practitioner from a previous generation (active or historic), conceived the year the younger one was born. Such a piece may be an artwork or any other item or event that offers an insight into the year of birth of the invited artist. This ‘obstruction’ aims to both contextualise a present day practice within a historical perspective and play with the general obsession of the ‘forever young’ – omnipresent in the artistic environment – thus raising questions concerning generation and context. The platform borrows its title from James Lee Byars’ The World Question Center (1969), exhibited in its first edition (at Supplement Gallery, London, in June 2014), together with works by Alexandre da Cunha. Other editions showcased the work of Marcius Galan in relation to Antonio Dias’ The Illustration of Art: The New York Information System, from 1972 (Pivô, São Paulo, January 2015); a series of paintings by Caragh Thuring alongside a 1972 Thames Television footage featuring maverick snooker player Alex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins (Westminster Waste, London, July 2016); a new commission by Jack Killick in relation to a brooch by Gerard Taylor (StudioRCA Riverlight, London, February/ March 2017) and Alexander Calder’s magnanimous Black Widow (1948) contrasting erotic paintings by Portuguese artist Julião Sarmento.


The project is developed by Maria do Carmo M. P. de Pontes.
Clementine Keith-Roach was born in London, United Kingdom, in 1984. She lives and works in Dorset, United Kingdom.
Steve Jobs was born in San Francisco, USA, in 1955. He died in Palo Alto, USA, in 2011.


Please click here to read an interview with Clementine Keith-Roach.