John Henry Newton

Encryptions of the soul

Lokaal 1B, Amsterdam

29th June 2016 – 16th July 2016

Transcription of exhibition's accompanying voiceover soundtrack:


A folder that contains the contents of another vessel, ripped away from its original location: from another device, perhaps another chapter of a life. These fragments have flaked away from living. Images and texts that are dumped to sit dormant on the flat plane on a screen. They wait in the hope that they will find a higher purpose. A chance for them to be activated, manipulated, placed into circulation; like actors preparing on the side of a stage. The tortoise is amongst them, a banal character that appeared in an accumulation of hand-drawn ink lines in 2007, claimed and sketched in boredom from a throwaway newspaper article. It has since waited ten years to meet your eye in this very room. 


Each subfolder can be seen as a potential future that he may or may not participate in. They are individually labelled with their proposed destination, a tangible location that could be marked on map. Contained within each, is a meandering text, a word-limited passage that attempts to impress an invisible reader with individual achievements and experience. But would this honesty be enough to realise one of these futures? Or would he need to fictionalise his own history? Create fake events with false titles. One application has been marked as resulting in a interview, an interview that would be conducted via a phone call. A faceless conversation that would be undertaken without the empathy of expression - interpretation lost through the cracks of an electric signal. The phone-tethered individual had chosen to place himself under the shade of a railway bridge to create a silent comfortable atmosphere. He was however, regularly interrupted at intervals, taunted by the sound of trains travelling through the city on the tracks above. 


The information expands through the tapping of an index finger, revealing an illustrated plan for a printed t-shirt. Displaying a familiar design, the shirt lists a number of dates and locations on its reverse - similar to a souvenir sold by a musician or performer to visually document the journey of a touring performance. This particular design differs from its traditional counterpart, presenting only a cryptic list of postal codes, locations that would require further investigation to decipher - somewhat contradicting the purpose of the object's existence.


A crude light box or shadow theatre produced from a second hand cardboard box, an Anglepoise lamp and a sheet of frosted acrylic plastic. A number of hand cut stencils are placed behind on an MDF stage, blocking out the lamp's warm light and casting a silhouette onto the frosted screen. Upon closer inspection, the shadow's detail represents a ruined building standing in front of three piles of rubble. An accompanying script outlines the facade's significance: it is the miniature recreation of a structure that has since been torn down, remaining only in the recollections of its previous inhabitants.


Three years of bank account statements are found organised chronologically. Each individual statement lists around a hundred-or-so business names relating to a product or service that has been purchased by an individual. Pubs, restaurants, towns, countries, electrical goods, haircuts… and so on. The most recent amount displayed on the top of the branded statement is made out for twenty six pounds twenty-seven. It has been sent to an office stationary company in exchange for 25 orange suspension folders.


A silent city street is revealed through a series of documentary photographs, the camera focussed on the windows of a building's exterior. One particular image in the series, displays a flickering screen through the glass of a disused door. It appears to be a surveillance monitor simultaneously displaying a black and white moving image. The projected light would picked out as an anomaly, its privacy noticeable in the otherwise low-lit public space. Surely it would be questioned by a pair of passing eyes, enticing the viewer into its flickering image: mysterious bodies passing through the rectangle of the frame.


Eight songs in digital format: a collection of tracks that can be recognised as an album created a British punk band. The accompanying digital artwork file presents two laser cut wooden heads on sticks, that include abstracted faces presumed to belong to the band members. The meticulous organisation and arrangement of these files oddly contradict the chaos and carelessness more commonly associated with such a genre.


Eight research images ripped from the internet, each image displaying a small model of a set design for a theatre production. One particular design attempts to replicate the dense layering of a forest with each tree meticulously illustrated in ink and watercolour.


Three black and white designs roughly composed from the same low resolution image: the photograph of a British cast iron water inspection cover, an object that can be seen embedded into pavements outside buildings. The cover displays a set of geometric details that could be compared to a face or a skull when viewed in the correct orientation. It is clear these new designs have been created based upon this association, as the graphic elements have been manipulated to show additional bodies connecting to these accidental heads. The titles for of each unopened file are 'LINDOW', 'GRAUBALLE' and ‘TOLUND', relating to three artefacts held within historical collections. More specifically three 'bog men’, a name given to corpses that have been discovered and excavated because of their remarkable natural preservation.




A collection of images displaying names ripped from the spam folder of an email account. Each name is likely to be fictional, created in an attempt to dupe a reader into passing on personal or financial details. Many introduce themselves as representatives from African banks, some as Slovakian women looking for a love, others: distant relatives who have found themselves in financial trouble abroad.


A digital video displaying the view of the interior of a studio, offered through a roughly made peephole in a wall. The image is regularly blocked by the pacing feet of it's inhabitant: a pair of nameless sports trainers. A series of silent subtitles accompany the moving image, recounting the observations of an artist staring out of his studio window.


Multiple recordings of a male voice stuttering through a series of scripts. These seemingly forgotten passages are littered with mistakes, the voice restarting each chapter upon noticing an imperfection. The individual occasionally curses in between takes, usually when forced to repeat the script repetitively. Though its flaws are evident, through these outbursts we are given a glimpse of what may be a genuine personality.

Artist, B. Swindon, UK, 1988. Lives and works in London.

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