The Real Thing
2018 The Tetley, Leeds, UK

For Material Environments, Harold Offeh created a live archive entitled ‘The Real Thing: Towards an Authentic Live Archive'. The archive explored ideas of reality, realness and authenticity; concepts which in recent years have taken on new meanings in our increasingly mediated lives.

Presented across three gallery spaces, Offeh’s evolving installation brought together artefacts, images, actions, performances and workshops. Offeh’s collection of vinyl LPs, all bearing the title “The Real Thing” were displayed alongside a compilation of film works by students at Leeds Beckett University. The students had been invited to each make a new film responding to Offeh’s work in a collaboration entitled Muse Me. During the course of the exhibition further films were added to this collection.

The show also included a selection of Offeh’s own film work spanning the past 17 years. More than a presentation of single works, the proximity of images and sound combined to create a sense of a wider whole, something greater than the sum of their parts.

The Shirley Cooper Gallery was used by Offeh to present a series of performance works alongside prints from his Lounging series, in which people were invited to perform the lounging pose. The work is based on Offeh’s collection of 1980s album covers of black male singers in reclining poses, which examines the adoption of both classical repose and their occupying presence within the gallery. The installation raises questions of authenticity within popular culture, inviting visitors to consider the origins and development of images, ideas and cultural archetypes and the ways in which they can be manipulated.

Photos: Jules Lister