Marx on the Table

Private View: 17 Sept | 17:00 - 20:00
Open Exhibition: 18 - 26 Sept | Thu & Fri: 11:00-15:00
Sat: 11:00-17:00 | Sun: 11:00-16:00
Daisy Murphy Youth Dance, Shakespeare Centre, Sandgate Rd, Folkestone, CT20 2DA

‘Marx on the Table’ brings together five recent graduates who scramble a material or object’s functionality to signal towards alternatives. This group exhibition touches upon themes such as identity, class, storytelling, queerness, and climate chaos.

Curators: Elliot Gibbons / Artists: Meitao Qu / Anaïs Comer / Lily Hudson / Jessica Reeves / Sally Plowman


When we write upon the table, we are most likely to layer a notebook or piece of paper over it to do so. By way of scraping at the surface of a varnished wooden table and forming a sequence of symbols which can be read, there is an inversion of the uses typically prescribed to the table. Sarah Ahmed understands this as a queering of use, or as “a certain willingness to be perverse”. Writing into the table’s surface is a queer use, in the sense that it releases a potentiality inherent to its original form.

In their book What’s the Use? (2019), Ahmed looks back upon a remark made by Karl Marx in his seminal text Capital (1867): Marx writes that “man changes the forms of the materials of nature in such a way as to make them useful to him” and that “the discovery of these ways and hence of the manifold uses of things is the work of history”. Ahmed’s analysis of this remark by Marx aptly enables her to conclude that the history of use is in fact a history of displacement; and how the binarism useful/useless underpins countless questionable ideologies, and politics. So, in queering ‘use’ a more just world can be sought for.

Through an analysis of Jacques Derrida’s reading of Marx within Spectres of Marx (1993), and his reflections upon a table found within an auction house or antiques shop, she states how signs of use such as scratches aren’t simply a sign of degradation or a loss of value but can be read as a testimony. She continues, the table “might testify to its own history”. Looking back at how an object has been ‘used’ - the histories it testifies to - enable us to imagine alternative uses. To queer an objects functionality is to attend to its own history of use, and seemingly work with and against such histories.

Marx on the Table - the first of two exhibitions selected for Folkestone Fringe’s new curator platform GLUE - brings together five recent graduates who seemingly attend to such histories of use within their respective practices. Through a process of then queering an object’s function, these artists signal to larger socio-political issues.


Anaïs Comer creates objects that although initially appearing familiar, are in fact quite strange. Public amenities, such as lampposts and signage, are rendered peculiar by Comer. Often produced from a composite of wood, cardboard and plaster, these artifacts are visually handmade – at times they appear animate or are sentient in the sense that unlike normal streetlamps, or signposts, they are moveable and interactive. With ‘the sheppey inn’ (2020) and ‘with April showers’ (2020), Comer poses pertinent questions about our public architecture, and who they serve.

Lily Hudson’s ‘A Scout from Really Really Far Away’ (2021), ‘Untitled (The City)’ (2021) and ‘Surrender’ (2021) build upon a piece of writing exploring the relationship between mycelial networks, humans, and a broader cybernetic ecology; consisting of a series of satellites whittled from discarded tree branches, imagined scenes from a fantasy world using pyrography (wood-burning) on panels of varnished reclaimed wood, and a sculptural make-shift table with the word ‘surrender’ formed three-dimensionally with modified twigs. Through a retooling of natural materials Hudson urges questions around alternative infrastructures in the face of climate chaos, and how we can organise collectively with nature and each other to combat these urgent issues.

Sally Plowman presents a series of sculptural works which retool discarded and found materials into musical instruments. ‘WE OPEN OUR MOUTH TO SPEAK AND’ (2021) is a composition of five interactive wooden contraptions, each with foot pedals attached to the bottom. The foot pedal when pressed tenses a piece of string which triggers a combination of metal tubing and recycled tin cans to clash upon their chipboard surfaces. One larger sculptural piece, resembling an atypical table, unleashes a series of long metal cylinders upon its outer surface, generating a sequence of ominous thuds. Each person who presses their foot upon this peddle engraves it with a more perverse history of use. ‘garage band’ (2021) is a modified trike, gifted to the artist whilst living nomadically, which you are invited to pedal; pedalling of the trike causes a metal rod to collide with tin cans attached to the frame. Plowman’s practice is informed by a redemptive uptake of failure, following the ideology championed by the queer theorist Jack Halberstam, her work exemplifies the numerous possibilities inherent in choosing to leave a proscribed set of rules behind.

Meitao Qu’s ‘Sleep well’ (2021) repurposes a hamster cage, dollhouse assembly kits, and miniature greenery to reflect upon city planning and access. Shenzhen-born Qu recalls childhood memories of her architectural surroundings in the city and the changes engendered by the economic experiments of the Pearl River Delta, Southern China. A cluster of luxury developments, amusement parks, and tourist complexes, colloquially referred to as OCT (Overseas Chinese Town), are distinguished from the neighbouring working-class villages of Baishizhou with concrete walls and manicured nature, designed to obscure them from the sight of visitors. The diorama sculpturally staged by Qu poses the question of who can utilise what, and how class dictates the answer to this question. For this exhibition, we have produced a complimentary publication ‘guān’ featuring Qu’s recent collage works and writing, combining political imagery and personal narrative.

Jessica Reeves’ ‘Show! Me the Money...’ (2021) is an installation of handmade paper pulp fire bricks, made entirely from their own personal detritus, such as receipts, diary papers, and an old university prospectus. Condensing wet pulp into rectangular masses with a briquette press enables a transformation of these waste materials into an alternative source of fuel. Reeves’s choice of materials trucks with the binarism of high and low, provoking questions around class and access within the creative sector today. Forming part of Marx on the Table’s public programme, Reeves will deliver a workshop where they will invite you to make your own firebricks, sharing this survivalist practice that could become vital in our not-too-distant futures.


Ahmed, S. (2019) What’s the Use? Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press.


1 September 2021

GLUE | New Curator Platform

Anaïs Comer (b. 1996, London) lives and works in London. With an inclination toward fantasy, fiction and storytelling, her practice explores the potential of objects to enchant. Working across sculpture, drawing, written text and performance, Comer channels the spirit and generosity of the storyteller. She received her BA (Hons) in Fine Art from Central Saint Martins in 2019 and is a participant on the Central Saint Martins' Associate Studio Programme 2019 -2021. Group exhibitions include ‘Invisible City’ (2021), UK Mexican Arts Society, London; ‘Lottery Exhibition - Ai Mi Tagai’ (2021), Youkobo Art Space, Tokyo; ‘Sounding Off 2.0’ (2020), VITRINE, Online; ‘The Destrier’ (2019), Freehold Projects, Leeds; ‘Bad Art Presents: KIKI / CSD’ (2018), Voodoo55 Gallery, Berlin; ‘Location, Location, Location’ (2017), Old Courts, Wigan; ‘Altered Realities’ (2017), Lethaby Gallery, London.


Lily Hudson (b. 1997) lives and works in London. Her work explores queer ecologies, the intersection between art and science, and draws heavily on science fiction and fantasy aesthetics. She works primarily with reclaimed or reusable materials - recently focusing on woodwork, pyrography, and writing. In the past she has worked with performance, puppetry, and textiles. Lily received her BA (Hons) in Fine Art from Central Saint Martins in 2020 and in 2019 was an exchange student on the Art Science course at The Royal Academy of Art in the Hague, Netherlands. She is participating in UAL’s Associate Studio Programme (2020 - 2022), works as a Graduate Teaching Assistant at Central Saint Martins, and is working towards a Level 5 Teaching and Learning qualification at Goldsmiths. She prefers to exhibit outside of conventional gallery spaces, and her group shows include ‘MAKE’ (2021), Freelands Foundation, London (2021); ‘Beneath A Garden Waits to Grow’ (2021), Brockley Community Gardens, London; ‘Strange News From Another Star’ (2021), Peckham Pelican, London (2021); ‘Nothing Personal’, No Bounds Radio, Online (2021); ‘The Middleman’ (2018), The Grey Space In the Middle, Den Haag.


Sally Plowman (b. 1997) lives and works in the UK. She focuses on collaborative working methods to think about how to fail without failing, re-routing purpose, and subverting possession and use. Her work is informed by clowning, often her work uses re-worked discarded objects to encourage play and connection via performance, sculpture, music, animation, and drawing. Sally graduated in 2020 with a BA(Hons) in Fine Art from The Slade School of Fine Art, London. She has exhibited across the UK, performances include; clown shows at ‘Supernormal Festival’, Oxfordshire (2019), ‘PARK(ing) Day’, De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-On-Sea (2018). She played with her band Shaky Dome at ‘A Friends Rendezvous’ (2019) at Southwark Park Galleries, London and performed in ‘The Halfway House’ (2020) an immersive production with Persona Collective in the Old Central Saint Martin’s campus, Holborn, London. As a curator, Sally programmed a year of events in two converted chapels in Lincolnshire: ‘A Year of Nostalgia’ (2018-19).


Meitao Qu (b.1996) lives and works between London and Beijing. From costume to architecture, she is interested in how forms of visualisation operate as ‘props’ to stimulate imaginations. Traversing sculpture, installation and moving image, her practice uses storytelling and worldbuilding to contemplate the fissure between ideology and reality. Taking scrapbooking as method, her work maps and sutures contradictory perspectives to draw out the misunderstandings that inform their conflict. Qu holds an MA from the Courtauld Institute (2020) and an MFA from the Ruskin School of Art (2021), funded by the Oxford-Kaifeng Graduate Scholarship, and received a BA (Hons) in Fine Art and Art History (2019) from Goldsmiths. Group shows include ‘reCreational’ (2018), Hartslane, London; ‘Symposium’ (2017), Crypt Gallery, London. She will be participating in the NewBridge Project’s Collective Studio programme (2021-2022).


Jessica Reeves (b. 1998) lives and works between London and Essex. She uses her workplace and educational experiences as material to contest ethics perpetuated by art institutions, in terms of the value of labour, hierarchies relating to class, accessibility and audiences. She uses DIY and survivalist techniques to make lo-fi objects from surplus materials, thus rejecting art world material-hierarchies and managing her frustration at the wasteful and materialistic nature of our capitalist society. Reeves graduated with a BA(Hons) in Fine Art from Central Saint Martins, UAL (2021) and is alumnus of Willem de Kooning Academy, Rotterdam (2019) and the Royal Drawing School, London (2017).

Her work has been selected for ‘UAL x Super Nature Presents: Material Heroes’, an exhibition in Granary Square for London Design Festival (2021). She was recently artist in remote residence at Metal (2021) and completed an Erasmus+ Grampus Heritage Residency in traditional skills at the Cyprus College of Art (2020). She is a contributor to ‘Tender Order’, a publication by Jade Montserrat with Industria & Jane Lawson. Reeves works for The Other MA (TOMA), an alternative art school in Southend-on-Sea, as the manager of the TOMA Project Space and will be the curator of the alternative degree show that opens in February 2022.



Elliot Gibbons is a writer, researcher, and curator based in Essex. He works as a part-time gallery assistant at Focal Point Gallery and as an assistant for TOMA Project Space. He holds a first-class BA (Hons) in Fine Art from Chelsea College of Art, London (2019), and a Foundation Diploma in Art and Design from Central Saint Martins, London at distinction level (2016). He is largely interested in unearthing queer histories outside of urban centres, and queer art histories during the AIDS crisis in Britain. His research has previously contributed to an online exhibition for Snapping the Stiletto: Campaigning for Equality. His writing has been published by ‘thisistomorrow’ and AQNB.


On the 25th of September join Jessica Reeves in the exhibition space for a firebrick-making workshop. Reeves will guide you through producing a fire brick entirely from everyday detritus, such as tickets, receipts, lists, bills, diary pages, or even a hoard of old university prospectuses. We encourage you to bring your own paperwork baggage to then pulp to explore what Reeves posits as a method “for processing and managing frustrations”. These can then be taken away and burnt at your leisure as a way of purging from the wasteful and materialist burdens of our capitalist society.

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