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Byzantia Harlow

MA work

My work focuses on participation, performativity, aspects of the ‘veneer’, analysis of social situations and subversion of expected interactions. It explores the nature of ‘space’ and mutual complicity between the ‘artist’ and the ‘audience’. I believe there can be an interchange of roles between the ‘artist’ and the ‘observer’, and I attempt to explore this interface. My work engages in discourse genres and explores how these various genres may collide or coalesce. I have an interest in artworks as a prompt for social interaction, artworks that form relationships rather than solely operating as objects. There are social and political aspects to my work, which pivot on points of value and authenticity, aspiration and desire: exploring the idea of authorship, of tribute, positioning or posturing, of taking a stance or playing a role. The work considers the journey we take, upon looking, between 'sightseer' and being ‘implicated'. It asks questions such as: why is there a willingness to be fooled into false belief, a mutual complicity in deceit, a beauty in artifice – such as the rehearsed aggression of rap, or the rehearsed ‘expression’ of art. I am interested in distortions within the act of sampling, the repetition and difference, how these distortions can be viewed as they are corrupted or concealed.

The gap or divergence between the source and the sample can become the work; the off key karaoke pitch, the moment in a lip-synched song where the mouth is out of time with the music, the analogue note missing the digital beat. The gap between the graffiti ‘roller’ on the side of a white van and the product that is copied laboriously, stencilled with care, basically ‘bitten’ in a clinical studio by an artist, before being hung on a gallery wall, a signature forged with a tag. These gaps can be assembled as a veneer of truth using symbolic language. The discourse occurs in the gaps found between the original and its echo. The gap between the idea of a work and the reality.

I consider parody within a genre, how this can be self-reflexive, self-aware. I am interested in the point where lines begin to blur between celebrating and critiquing. Embracing the stereotype while attacking what you integrate, pastiching and lampooning, polemics and contradictions.

Authorship defines origination; there is a fine line of separateness, which may permeate upon readership and copying. The echoed symbol becoming disparate from the source. The diffusion line. There is a role of tribute in such acts, which walks this line, between playing a role and becoming the object, for a moment. Within these stances there is enjoyment of being part of the dark mirror, being ‘fooled’ by the faux and being part of the performer-audience diad. Such is the beauty in artifice.


  • MA Degree


    School of Humanities


    MA Painting, 2015

  • Degrees

  • BA Fine Art, Central Saint Martins School of Art & Design, 2010 ; Erasmus Exchange, Ecole nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts, 2009; Foundation Degree, Chelsea College of Art and Design, 2007
  • Exhibitions

  • Franchise – Trial Shift, 1-10 Purcell Street, London, 2014; Work in Multiplied, Contemporary Editions Fair, London, 2014; Kurt Schwitters’ Merz Barn, Cylinders Estate, Cumbria, 2014; Rushgrove House Project II, Rushgrove House, London, 2014; Insider Joke, Royal College of Art, London, 2014; Rushgrove House Project I, Rushgrove House, London, 2013; Life (Bildung), Barbican Centre, London, 2013; The Human Body, Moretti Fine Art, London, 2013; Vicissitude, Kabin Collection, London, 2010; Art Barter, London, 2010; BA Degree Show, Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design, London, 2010
  • Awards

  • Nominee, Red Mansion Art Prize, 2015
  • Conferences

  • New critical intersections for contemporary art and architecture: the legacy of Kurt Schwitters in Britain at the Tate Britain, 2014