University of Exeter

Bare Life

Bare Life: Art Despite Everything was a multi-site contemporary art project, taking place in art venues, empty shop spaces and public contexts around Exeter city centre in June 2023. Initiated by students on the MA Curation course at University of Exeter, the aim was to reflect upon the harsh cultural climate we find ourselves in, post-pandemic, in the midst of a cost of living crisis, with war in Ukraine, a hostile environment for migrants, the NHS in meltdown, widespread industrial action and a growing alienation amongst young people from the workplace and consumer culture.

Inspired by a quote from Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben, from which the term 'bare life' was taken, our identity explores the notion of merely functioning within a consumer society, where everything is standardised and people are reduced down to being simply workers, shoppers, or coded information on a database. The use of bitmapped imagery references this notion of 'bare life', while the figures depicted in the crowd represent the blurred identities of those who have fallen out of state recognition.

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