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19 May 2020


What are artists thinking and doing now? We hope you enjoy watching the fourth in our new series Three Questions, with artist Oliver Chanarin.

Francesca Bertolotti-Bailey, Acting Head of Programme of Kettle’s Yard, says: ‘The idea for the series was inspired by Jim and Helen Ede, the founders of Kettle’s Yard. They hosted, commissioned and collected artists all of their life. Most of their friends were artists, and artists were undoubtedly the people they respected and trusted the most. So, in this moment of uncertainty and chaos, it only makes sense for us to turn to artists and their worldviews to help make sense of our new normal. Over the coming weeks, I am asking artists who have worked at Kettle’s Yard to answer to three questions with a 2-3 minute video. Enjoy!’

Watch Francesca’s introduction to the series here.

Watch artist Oliver Chanarin’s response, filmed at his home in London, England.

About Oliver Chanarin

Oliver Chanarin (London, 1971) is professor of photography at the Hochschule für bildende Künste in Hamburg, Germany and a founding member of the Master Programme in Photography & Society at The Royal Academy of Art in The Hague, The Netherlands. For the last twenty years he has been one half of the artist duo Broomberg & Chanarin, whose practice has been tackling politics, religion, war and history, originally through photography and a critical appropriation of photojournalism, and more recently across diverse media. An exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, due to open in September 2020, will be Oliver Chanarin’s first major solo presentation.

Broomberg & Chanarin were part of ‘fig-futures’, a programme of quick-fire exhibitions, each lasting for only one week, which took place at Kettle’s Yard in Autumn 2018. They presented Bandage the knife not the wound, an ongoing photographic work that they describe as ‘visual exchange’: a series of images that have been significant to them during the course of their collaborative career are revisited and printed by one of them, and left for the other to overprint with another image.

Watch Broomberg & Chanarin talking about their work in ‘fig-futures’ here.

Instagram @oliverchanarin @fionajburgesss

About the photographs in the video

In 1926 August Sander was asked by the Cologne painter Peter Abelen to create a portrait of his young wife: The Painter’s Wife is one of 640 archetypes photographed by August Sander in Germany between 1920–30. Oliver Chanarin takes The Painter’s Wife as a starting point for a photographic study of his own wife, Fiona Jane Burgess, made during the Covid-19 quarantine in their home in London. Taken at various times in the day, between household chores and childcare duties, Chanarin’s photographs are collaborative and playful, as they constitute a continuous, daily, obsessive interrogation of the self that seem to be asking, who is this person?

The full series of portraits will be presented as framed 8 x 10 inch prints, exhibited at eye height inside the gallery. The installation is inspired by the automated distribution centres of Amazon and other global online retailers: a mechanical apparatus hangs and rehangs the photographs; moving along wall-mounted rails; sorting between stacks of portraits on the gallery floor; and transporting them on and off the wall for the duration of the exhibition. At first the works are displayed randomly, but over the duration of the exhibition the apparatus tracks visitors in and out of the gallery and monitors dwell time – the micro seconds each visitor spends looking at each specific work. Images that receive more attention are displayed more often and for longer. Only a fragment of the archive is ever displayed, and what the audience see and don’t see is the result of what others have seen, given attention to or ignored.

With this ambitious new work, produced during an unprecedented period of lockdown and social distancing, Chanarin addresses the new taxonomy at the heart of surveillance capitalism; drawing alarming parallels to the work of August Sander, physiognomy and the archival impulse at the heart of the photographic medium.

Images: Oliver Chanarin, 2020, c-type print, each 8 x 10 inch, courtesy of the artist.

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