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Danielle Arnaud Gallery

20th January – 24th February 2024

Kerry Doyle


“What is visual and palpable here is marginalized and veiled for most of us in the UK… it takes visiting somewhere unfamiliar to more easily recognize what is out of place” 

-Freya Gabie


The 1,954-mile-long border between the United States and Mexico is a landscape full of paradox.  Marked by an increasingly militarized environment of walls, fences, technology, and law enforcement, this strip of land represents an undeniable (if persistently surmountable) material divide between the two countries.  Barriers established to regulate the movement of people and goods form much of our mediated understanding of this place, tangible boundaries that separate one nation from the other. Yet, amidst the visible separations, the border is also a site of profound connection. The United States-Mexico border is a microcosm of the complexities inherent in our globalized world.  It's a convergence point where economies, culture, language, and human experience collide, blurring the lines of demarcation.  


Border communities stand testament to human efforts to both define and transcend boundaries, reflecting an intricate tapestry of shared humanity within the landscape of division.  On the surface of this tapestry, objects and ideas like nation and culture have legible boundaries that reinforce the binaries of the United States and Mexico – of us and them, security and violence, rich and poor, here and there. But like every tapestry, it has a backside, a complex field of threads that are accessible but often unseen, the maze of knots and twists that form traces of the labor and artistry just beneath the surface, the intricate and chaotic underbelly of this place. This is where I found Freya Gabie.


Much of the work in this exhibition was created during Freya’s three months at the Border Arts Residency in El Paso, Texas in 2022.  During that time, I would often see her walking the streets of El Paso, the very sight of her a surprise in a city that is most often experienced by car.  This walking was my introduction to her place-based, labor-intensive way of understanding the world around us and a testament to her artistic commitment to a local specificity that is somehow essential to understanding our globalized world.


The works in this exhibition reflect an interest in the inherent contradictions of places and highlight the interplays between balance and imbalance, between strength and vulnerability, resilience and endurance, and the fragility of the everyday.  The two-channel video installation Duet features imagery from two different sides of the border seven miles apart from one another – the Municipal Rose Garden in El Paso, Texas, and El Señor Community Garden in Ciudad Juarez.  The imbalance in infrastructure between the two cities, particularly in regard to water access, is visible in the frames.  The water flows freely through irrigation systems in El Paso, producing blooming roses despite the desert landscape, in the same landscape across the border the community garden survives with small amounts of water from a well.  The monitors have been installed on opposite sides of the gallery, forcing viewers to choose between watching either Mexico or the United States, a tactic that might at first seem to reinforce a border binary.  But at the same time, an overlapping soundtrack mixes the audio from both sides in a duet that hints at a more complex relationship, an invitation from the artist to explore this undefined territory.

Cut is a deck of cards showing 52 original nameplates from the municipal rose garden that reflect an affinity for the order and subjugation of nature.  Contested Spaces documents indigenous plants that grow freely in the border soil, here the images are complex, ambiguous, and difficult to define.  Contrasting the two works, we are invited to consider the difference between labeling a thing and knowing a thing, a difference that is central to the tensions that the artist presents throughout the exhibition. It is also present in works like An Invitation which uses the simple form of a piñata to document how labor, goods, and services move back and forth across the border in ways that make it difficult to determine where an object is produced – the Made In America labels found on consumer goods oversimplifying an intricate transnational dance. 


Through the recreation of what appear to be everyday objects made with unusual levels of labor, attention, and care the artist also invites us to take a closer look at our domestic spaces. Between the Lines, while not made at the border, reflects both the methodology and concerns of the artist’s residency there.  Taking simple plastic laundry baskets, Freya uses a slow, deliberate, labor-intensive process to grind back the forms of the objects to the most extreme extent possible, so that what is left is the barest skeleton of the structures, fragile and vulnerable. In their precarious weightlessness, they threaten to collapse onto themselves.  In Lifebuoy she gradually transforms cheap bars of soap through the laborious and intimate act of washing her hands over and over again.  The imprint of her hands returns humanity to the manufactured objects, conjuring up both the hands of the people who make the soap and those who use it daily in unremarkable ways.


The work here is temporary and transient, packed and moved easily, reminiscent of the everyday objects that might be found in even the humblest of dwellings. The domestic setting of the gallery reinforces these implied intimacies, one feels the artist has truly brought this work home in a meaningful way.  Duet as an exhibition transcends borders, both physically and conceptually.  It is an invitation to viewers to reflect on their place in the world, urging them to contemplate both the complexities of global interconnectedness and the specificities of place. The labored, slow, process-driven making that Freya has at the center of her work allows those particular places to be seen in new ways, through a willingness to slow down and connect to both new and familiar landscapes, stepping back to see the defining outlines and crouching in close to see the almost imperceptible gestures of the everyday.



Kerry Doyle is the Director of the Rubin Center for the Visual Arts at The University of Texas at

El Paso. She specializes in curatorial projects that are interdisciplinary, participatory and

performative, with a special focus on the border as subject and site. Doyle regularly

collaborates with individuals and institutions from both El Paso and Ciudad Juarez in the

execution of a wide range of interdisciplinary and community-engaged programming.



Danielle Arnaud Gallery

20th January – 24th February 2024


Living Inside a Line

Chloe Hodge


How do we adapt or reconfigure ourselves when our conditions are in flux?

What forms of resistance and ingenuity do we develop when faced with a border?

How do people meet across an unequal divide?

And, what effect does precarity have on the body?


In Duet, the viewer is a participant: required to activate, move, and transform, and to treat this environment with utmost care. Populated with works made during Gabie’s time at the Border Art Residency in El Paso, exploring the Rio Grande river and its role as a shifting border between the USA and Mexico, this space has come to reflect the precarity of this place. Here, we are new arrivals, and we must learn to exist in a highly sensitive ecosystem, to be fluid yet vigilant, to pay attention and to respect a balance held by tenuous arrangements.


Duet draws us inside with a game of chance: Cut is a pack of playing cards printed with the name plaques of the 52 rose species growing in El Paso’s Municipal Rose Garden. Designed for a far different climate, this perfectly manicured American garden is soaked with a stream of crystal clear water, glimmering in the desert sun. Breaking the pack reveals American rose names such as ‘Master Lincoln,’ ‘American Pride,’ or even the more conspicuous ‘White Masterpiece.’

In two-channel film Duet, the Municipal Rose Garden emerges from the depths of winter and reaches into full, vibrant bloom. Facing this rich image is a second, which appears quite different. Having discovered the Municipal Rose Garden, Gabie searched for a Mexican counterpart and found El Huerto Del Señor Community Garden, created by local volunteers to provide food. While roses in El Paso are soaked as they sit in thick imported soil, the community garden’s dusty plants fight for a trickle from the hose. Water divides the communities of El Paso and Juárez in a multitude of ways.


Unlike buttery rose petals, local indigenous plants have formed strong skeletal-like structures to survive this extreme environment. Contested Spaces sees partial X-rays of cholla, octotillo, soaptree yucca, Mexican buckeye, Texan mountain laurel and desert willow embedded in glass panels, which lean precariously unfixed. The plants’ status might too be unfixed: they are indigenous to this land, yet caught on one side of its moving political border. With their formidable bodies strong enough to withstand X-ray, these plants can cross the border as copies – still, leaving themselves behind.


Fragmenting, reducing, splitting, scraping – breaking down and drawing back is key to Gabie’s practice. Between the Lines is a Brâncusi-esque tower formed from fine plastic frameworks, stacked upon one another. Worn down by the artist, this fragile body was once a set of generic plastic laundry baskets – reminiscent of armatures, they appear simultaneously as a beginning and an end, another in-between. Made in China and sold in cities the world over, the baskets are one of many necessities bought cheaply in El Paso by Juárez residents travelling over with a border card, while shops in Juárez cater to tourism from the USA. This exemplifies the many delicate symbioses between El Paso and Juárez, written along their own lines, and which could easily be toppled.


Our presence becomes more threatening with Proxy. An impossible object, it is a glass rope comprising thousands of tiny beads, forced together to become strong. If we give into temptation and climb the rope, if the rules of this space are broken and one bead shatters, its entire constitution is brought to collapse. To survive here is to restrain or be restrained; Thief is a series of copper, terracotta and porcelain casts of women’s elastic hair bands. If they are touched, they will disintegrate to dust, ashes even. Nearby, short film Mandown sees an inflatable man attempt to stand and fall repeatedly, a duet of resistance and surrender.


Upstairs, five metre work Lifebuoy emits a pungent artificial scent: ninety-six antibacterial lifebuoy soaps have been individually washed by hand, eroding a gram at a time. Translucent fleshy gems, they sit on a breezeblock plinth, fatty deposits sinking into the grit. Banal objects, these are both precious commodities in Juárez where scarcity and cardboard homes are common. Migrant workers move towards the maquiladora factories, providing cheap unregulated labour to major international companies, and receive pay so poor that they must buy one breezeblock at a time, slowly piling these up outside until they have enough to build a room, finally a house.


An Invitation was made a Mexican factory, commissioned by the artist. Like many items made here, it was then sold in the USA, in this case just over the border in El Paso. It resembles a popular American hammer, one of thousands of items made in Mexican factories and marketed as ‘Made in the USA.’ An Invitation is the only work in Duet which is not physically present and documented instead, as it could not travel by hand inside a suitcase, as every other piece could. A party game made in the shape of a weapon or tool, it carries a sense of futility: it suggests violence or repair but cannot offer either. Again, there is this sense of paralysis, of an inability to affect change. What remains is the offer to break the piñata and see what treasures can come from demolishing an existing structure.


Diptych Difficult Maps marks a close to the exhibition, yet its small, sturdy chamiza plants were Gabie’s initial guiding light as to how to exist in this place. The chamiza is the namesake for a hundred-year border conflict here, when the Rio Grande river changed course and people found themselves moved motionlessly between countries. This humble salt bush, which lives by continuously responding to its saline landscape, encapsulates what it takes to exist here in its adaptability to constantly shifting conditions, hardy resilience and its evergreen optimism. 

Chloe Hodge currently curator at the Tate Britian, is a London-based curator with ten years' experiance working with international artists and institutions.


Catalogue text - Denise De Cordova 2016

A letter to Freya

Dear Freya,


I always imagine that there are people in the world walking around with a long history leg; one that furrows and ploughs the surface to reveal hidden things; artefacts and memories that blink in the light of day, before settling in the present to coexist with the shorter leg, the one that treads the here and now. Together they create a view of a future that can acknowledge a present built on a past. I think of you like that, and indeed, have seen you like that.  Do you remember the lengths you went to in order make that ever so slim cut through the concrete floor that insidiously traveled through the building like some kind of interior geological fault line or surgical procedure? And then it gathered dust-dust of your own making from shaved carpets, hinting at indeterminate colours that disintegrated just at the moment one decided it might be yellow, red or black. It’s these types of qualities that that make your work so memorable, that somehow it evokes a sensation that is both epic and quiet, capturing our imagination like an echo. Perhaps I am using too many adjectives to describe what you do, because stealth and subtlety are more your style, but this is a letter and these are the things I want to say to you, and your work, in spite of it’s seeming simplicity, has a complexity and depth that resonates beyond itself. It’s like a breath you feel behind you that makes you want to turn round. There is a kind of trust embedded within a letter, that reciprocity and exchange exists, even when it goes unanswered.  And you go on voyages-literally- to Spain, the US, Iceland or currently Bolton; were you need to trust your hunches and responses in order to get work done. Both terrifying and exhilarating, I imagine.

I like the title of your exhibition. There’s a certain insistence in the phrase “Everything Must Go”, a fear of crisis, and the desperate desire to get rid of unwanted merchandise, the ‘bargains’ of failed dreams. But there’s another voice, a gentler one, that speaks of the inevitability of change, of transformation and mortality, and that it can be beautiful. We’re back with your history leg.


With love and good wishes,





Catalogue text - Jessica Holtaway 2016

Everything Must Go – an industrial poem

Jessica Holtaway


Freya Gabie’s Everything Must Go rejoices in the temporal blaze of history. It celebrates the absurd, the forgotten and the failed.  It playfully reactivates dormant memories.  Lyrical and dynamic, it compels us to reflect on the tragicomic tales of our culture.


Reflecting on the visual language of the exhibition, this text approaches Everything Must Go as a kind of free verse poem and asks: how do materials form the lexicon of the exhibition and reveal that objects themselves also have a kind of timbre or rhythm? It looks at how these poetic fragments of history retell contemporary social narratives and have relevance for us now.   By interpreting the exhibition as a poem, the following paragraphs reflect on the tension between freedom and structure.  They explore how we might transcend pre-defined social paradigms, and how we might amplify our experience of freedom.


Throughout the summer of 2016, Gabie explored Bolton’s history with residents of the city, responding to her environment to create a series of vignettes. Following her three-month residency at NEO studios, Bolton, Gabie brings together a series of site-specific works in NEO Gallery.  Each of the artworks acts as a ‘stanza’ in the composition of the exhibition.  The ephemerality of each artwork becomes a refrain throughout the collection.



Everything Must Go centres around the dance performance Dark Steps in which a group of clog dancers respond to a sound rhythm generated from the trading data of 23rd and 24th June 2016, when a majority in the UK voted to leave the European Union.  Working with a financial trader to interpret algorithmic data, Gabie translated ‘Brexit’ into a cadent pattern.  This sound was then reinterpreted by a local group of clog dancers[i], who used it as the starting point for two live dance performances in the gallery space.


This embodied transcription alters the significance of the algorithmic sequences. By playfully mimicking the patterns of calculation, the dancers turn the data into joyful, lively expressions of their vitality. They conserve and sustain a sense of creativity and agency through dance. By keeping an interpretive distance from the data, the dancers create a shared space of independence.


Knocked up also explores creative form, and responds to convergence of playfulness and precarity. It draws from the history of ‘knocker-uppers’, who were employed as community ‘alarm clocks’[ii].  Knocker-uppers used sticks to knock on the doors and windows of factory employees to wake them up for work. Often the thin panes of glass would break under this repetitive pressure, and so the knocker-uppers began to carefully modify their tools. 

These fragile objects have vanished over time but, after listening to the recollections of Bolton residents, Gabie has recreated a series of sticks using porcelain casts of bamboo.   Knocked up not only restores collective memories of these lost objects, it suggests a neighborly negotiation between the knocker-upper and workers.  Although reinforcing the form and structure of the working day, knocker-uppers carefully adapted their tools so as not to damage the windows of the workers.


Similarly Breath in, breath out marks the transience of a fragile archive. Breath in, breath out is a paper installation made from the pulp of promotional posters used in Beales of Bolton, a department store that has been trading in Bolton for over a hundred years and is closing this winter.  This installation is a delicate monument to throwaway objects. Also subject to decay, Breath in, breath out becomes a pause in the transformation of the posters into dust.


The exhibition as a whole manifests the poetic form of these relations – the rules and frameworks within which emotions and freedoms are played out.  Like a free verse poem, that operates beyond the limits of regular meters, the exhibition functions beyond the limits of representation - not only does it illuminate these histories, it allows us to sustain our own interpretive distance both to the history of our culture, and the experience of living amongst the machines and structures of our everyday life.



In spoken and written sentences, words are intended to transport meaning, but each time some sense of the language is lost.  For philosopher Jacques Derrida writing always contains a self-concealing ‘trace’.  He describes the trace as ‘that which does not let itself be summed up in the simplicity of a present’ (Derrida; 1976; 66)[iii].  Language (written and visual) always contains a trace, and it reaffirms our inability to entirely reduce a communication to a fixed meaning.  Particularly when we read a poem, or look at an artwork, we might become passively aware of the ‘absenting’ of meaning.  There is something being communicated, a sense of the world, and yet it cannot be summed up.  Our inability to completely sum up an artwork means that we are permanently receptive to, and susceptible to, the experiences of others.


Similarly, whilst technologies punctuate our daily life and sense of the world, the uncertainty and inconclusive nature of our consciousness maintains a sense of freedom.  Because we are necessarily receptive to others, and to the contingent nature of our own consciousness, we are liberated from finite meaning. Everything Must Go is a celebration of this liberation, a celebration of the fact that our consciousness is not externally controlled by the apparatuses of everyday life.  Even though we always respond to these apparatuses, they are modifiable and temporal.


The title of the exhibition Everything Must Go is based on a public work – a bright pink billboard in the centre of town, with the words ‘EVERYTHING MUST GO’ emblazoned in white.  Referencing closing down sales, declining commerce and disposal of goods – this phrase contains the promise of a deal, a negotiation that results in obtaining something at a discount.  It hints at an increased accessibility to ones’ desires that goes hand in hand with demise and loss. 


Never bet more then you can afford to lose continues the theme of transience, but draws attention to the creative potential that it engenders.  Discarded carpets are turned into ‘pulp’, and recycled in a factory in Bolton and used to make the interior of cars.  Gabie instead uses the ‘carpet pulp’ to replicate one of the four-meter-high structural columns that run throughout the gallery.  Throughout the six-week exhibition, this column will crumble and break apart, manifesting the impermanence of the objects, even as they are agents of knowledge production.



Rhythm refers to arrangements or patterns of sounds as they appear and disappear through time.  The differing evanescence of each sound allows a rhythm to emerge or be decided upon.   In poetry, rhythms generally conform to a particular style, but in free verse poetry, rhythm tends to follow the natural rhythm of speech.  As I am interpreting Everything Must Go as a visual free verse poem, I am interested in conceptualising the natural rhythm of materials, or objects, and how these, like speech have a certain distinctive ‘timbres’.


The series of photo etchings - Permanent Fade – depicts three drawings of comets sighted throughout the Industrial Revolution, when little was known about these phenomena.  Sightings of comets were mysterious encounters with another world.  Gabie transformed these images into etchings, before continuously exposing each metal plate to acid before printing.  This gradually repeated process causes the etching plate to erode and the image of the comet to burn out.  The comet images have a different ‘life-spans’ before the images disappear altogether (16 prints, 11 prints and 16 prints).  Here we see the materiality of the etched image played out like a sustained note, until it vanishes.


The series of screen prints - Untitled - draws attention to the distinctive quality of each gesture.   Tactile and expressive, each print documents a moment in which one surface brushes against another, leaving the trace of this gesture. Untitled illuminates the materiality of mark-making, the texture of movements. 


Like the rhythm of music, generated through a pattern of movement, each of Gabie’s works introduces an impression.  Each material and artwork in the exhibition has a different ‘timbre’ – a different tonality and intensity.  As such Everything Must Go has a poetic resonance, it plays with the limits of formal structure, causing us to reflect on the unique qualities of the materials and the narratives explored in the exhibition.


Concluding words

Visual language is an apparatus.  Art is communicated through the grammar and lexicon of visual culture – in the art world, these structures might include the formal qualities of the materials used, the gallery space and the opening night.  But art also transcends this, because it playfully draws attention to the inconclusive nature of language (visual, written and spoken).  Art and poetry leave us with questions, with a desire to reach out for more. 


Speaking of poetry, TS Eliot said: ‘It is this contrast between fixity and flux…which is the very life of verse’.  He concludes that ‘the division between Conservative Verse and vers libre does not exist, for there is only good verse, bad verse, and chaos.’ [iv]  Here, he draws attention to the playful sense of freedom within poetry as a whole, a sense that is not limited to ‘free verse’.  The perpetual contrast between fixity and flux and between structure and liberation, is what sustains the possibility of either, and is the very condition of freedom.  Nevertheless, the analogy of free verse poetry has enabled us to see more clearly these tensions between structure and liberation, and has highlighted how the visual poem of Everything Must Go embodies this dynamism.


How does this have relevance for us? Each day is punctuated with machines – apparatuses that form the grammar of everyday life.  From the alarm clock to the kettle and from the ticket barrier to the train, each ring, click, flash and beep indicates or guides our decisions.  Machines, systems and algorithms influence and structure our daily narratives and help us make sense of time.  And collectively these alerts, reminders, shortcuts and breakdowns resound in the rhythm and tone of our culture. Gabie’s artworks reflect on the freedom within and beyond these frameworks of consciousness.  Everything Must Go has shown us how, like the clog dancers, we might ‘dance’ rather than ‘toil’ to the rhythm of these machines.


[i] For more on clog dancing, visit:


[ii] For more on knocker-uppers, here is a poem by Bob Moore:

[iii] Derrida, Jacques, Of Grammatology, 1976, The Johns Hopkins University Press

[iv] Wetzsteon Rachael, ‘Some Reflections on Eliot’s “Reflections on Vers Libre”: on Verse and Free Verse’, February 21, 2005,



Quickly, Quietly 

Exhibition Text, Kathryn Johnson, 2016

A white, formless space. From a distance, three voices begin to make themselves heard


Voice 1:

I shall begin.

I come from an ancient family – Venetian, Jewish. I have to keep up appearances. Those who love me say I am like marble. Lustrous as moonlight; pale as the grave. But I know my secret – I was born in a woodland. And if you touch me – I will fall.

Voice 2:

I had the perfect body. Curved in all the right places. Elegant, long-limbed. Irresistible. They all wanted me. The fiery, the sweet, the soft, the sharp. I had them all. But. I was numb! Inert! Couldn’t feel a thing! Until, one day, out of nowhere, I found myself dancing. Alone, in the centre of the flame. And I could not go back. I am melted, reborn. Raw? Yes, I am raw. But look, how much of myself I have become.  

Voice 3:

The pacing, the crying, the hot, heavy head on the hot, heavy breast. I have been there. I have been heard there. In the never-ending darkness. The never-ending light. Sometimes I thought no-one was listening. But now my words come echoing back, spilling, falling forth, like raindrops that will wear away stone.



Quickly, quietly, now.


Swansong; From Dawn Till Dusk

Text accompanying performance, Jessica Holtaway, 2014


Swan Song


‘This song only sings, or this step only dances, at the moment of its breaking off, in the breaking of its breaking off, and it cannot do otherwise than entrust to its own dying the task of sustaining its note, of dancing its step.’ (Jean-Luc Nancy; Dis-Enclosure; 2008; 97)


The swan song symbolizes a final creative gesture, made before death or retirement.  Based on the belief that a swan remains silent throughout its life- only singing as it approaches death- the swan song embodies the temporality of beauty and harmony.


The swan breaks a life-long silence and surrenders itself to a song that reaches into death.  This gesture beyond sense, beyond the sensible, reveals the ‘brink’ of existence; the movement from being to not-being.


It is significant that Nancy says that the ‘song sings’ rather than the ‘swan sings’- the song is the crossing over of the swan into death.  ‘Being’ resigns itself into the gesture of song and is propelled towards death.  In this way the swan ‘entrusts to its own dying the task of sustaining its note’; it is delivered to death through the resonance of its communicating.


The song is understood as a gesture that ‘breaks’ with what has been before. It is the performance of being as it expends itself and becomes exposed to that which lies beyond sensible experience.  At the heart of the metaphor of the swan song is a sense that communicating reaches beyond a tangible sense of being, but in doing so it enables us to sense being.  This is not nihilistic; rather it is the recognition that communicating gives existence its value, even as it propels it towards finitude.


It is in this sense that art, as a form of communication, puts into play new finitudes.  Each song, each performance, is a movement beyond the identity of the performer.  And as each gesture of communicating creates a new sound or a new image, we are together exposed to the temporality of being, and able to value its transience.


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