With Richard Billingham's TV debut - Fishtank - at its centre, We Ran Together, 28/10/23 - 16/12/23, is an exhibition across two seasons. This side of Christmas has a focus on Billingham and the work that was made alongside Fishtank.
The season takes a closer look at socio-economic movement and the visual arts. Socio-economic background remains a huge and largely invisible issue in the arts. With fewer defined career routes and limited security, the challenges are still very present in the visual arts. Recent years, and the necessary pulling back together of family groups or bubbles into restricted domestic spaces, brings a new resonance to this work.
Billingham's TV debut pushes you so close to his fighting, drinking, low-income family that it hurts. His photographs have always wrong- footed any neat interpretation, and now Fishtank uses a camcorder to up the emotional ante with an often excruciating, sometimes exquisite fusion of intimacy and objectivity. — Louisa Buck, Artforum.
Filmed almost entirely within the claustrophobic confines of a council flat in the West Midlands, it features his mother Liz, brother Jason and alcoholic father Ray as well as various pets. It moves between alienation, altercation and affection. Following Billingham’s acclaimed book of photographs Ray’s a Laugh, 1996, Fishtank was Billingham’s first film and a groundbreaking work for television. Dispassionately yet compassionately, it crafts a terrible beauty from the landscape of family life.
Made in 1998, the year g39 opened to the public, it has led g39 to think about its own beginnings in South Wales, and some of the conditions that it came out of. A generation, in many cases, that mirrored Billingham’s own pattern. The first generation to go to college, the first in the arts. The sense that contemporary art was somewhere else, something you left home to pursue and all the subsequent ties and tensions of family patterns and priorities.
Fishtank is part of The Artangel Collection, an initiative to bring outstanding film and video works, commissioned and produced by Artangel, to galleries and museums across the UK. The Artangel Collection has been developed in partnership with Tate, is generously supported by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and The Foyle Foundation and uses public funding from Arts Council England.