Aria Dean: Abattoir

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8 February 2024 to 5 May 2024 The Institute of Contemporary Arts

A dimly lit industrial room with rows of overhead hooks and chains, reflecting on a wet, glossy floor. The space between two circular windows on grey metallic doors offers a glimpse into the room, highlighting its mechanical and utilitarian design.
Aria Dean, Abattoir, U.S.A.!, 2023, Single-channel video, sound, colour, 10:50 mins. Courtesy the artist and Greene Naftali, New York, and Château Shatto, Los Angeles

An exhibition that delves into the complex relationship between modernity and death

Aria Dean: Abattoir is the New York-based artist’s first exhibition in the UK. The exhibition of the artist’s recent work explores the foundational relationship between modernity and death on conceptual and material levels. The ICA’s main gallery features Dean’s Abattoir, U.S.A.!, a site-specific film installation with immersive 8-channel sound.

The animated film traverses the interior of an empty slaughterhouse. Rendered using the 3D computer graphics tool Unreal Engine, the film weaves the viewer through corridors and chambers, an imaginary patchwork of 19th, 20th and 21st century architectures. The film is mimicked in the ICA’s gallery through physical echoes of the virtual space. Composer Evan Zierk’s accompanying score samples field recordings, cinematic instrumentals, algorithmically generated sound, as well as a familiar pop cover.  A new object-based work is presented alongside Abattoir, U.S.A.! in the adjacent gallery.

As an artist and writer, Dean is invested in a theoretical critique of representational systems, analysing how aesthetic theory, image networks and visibility map onto questions of race and power. The works on view continue Dean’s interest in addressing Blackness in terms of aesthetics in a way that doesn’t rely upon cultural signifiers and lived experience, but rather positions Blackness as a structural force and structural object. 

The exhibition deliberates on critical functions of cinema and the origins of modernist architectures – topics long-debated within the ICA’s walls – and puts them in conversation with histories of industrialisation, anti-Blackness, fascism, and colonialism that demand urgent attention. Against a contemporary backdrop of systemic violence and subjugation, the analogy of the slaughterhouse and the question it poses of structuralised death as a cornerstone of modern life are more relevant than ever.

Event programme

Wednesday 7 Feb, 6:30pm - Exhibition Preview

Thursday 8 Feb - Open to public

Friday 9 Feb, 6:30pm - Artist Talk

Artist and writer Aria Dean discusses her recent work and the thinking behind her current exhibition at the ICA.

Further Information: ICA | Aria Dean: Abattoir