John Boyd

8 Positions from a game of Tlön Uqbar

Preview Thursday 12th November 6-8pm

13th November – 5th December, 2015




John Boyd’s latest exhibition takes its title ‘8 positions from a game Tlön Uqbar’ from Jorge Luis Borges’ short story Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius.

Borges’ story begins with two friends talking over dinner. As the evening goes on, the discussion turns to Uqbar , a place that is mentioned only in the closing pages of a single volume of the Anglo-American Cyclopaedia. It transpires that these pages appear in some copies of the work, but not in others.

Tlön, is a fabled world with its own physical and metaphysical laws in which the epics and legends of Uqbar literature are set. The people of this imaginary planet do not believe in the material, objective existence of their surroundings. They believe only what they themselves perceive, and hence the “world for them is not a concourse of objects in space; it is a heterogeneous series of independent acts. It is successive and temporal, not spatial.”

We later learn, through the emergence of a letter, that Uqbar and Tlön are invented places, the work of a "benevolent secret society" conceived in the early 17th century.

In the course of the story, the narrator encounters increasingly substantive artifacts of Tlön; by the end of the story, Earth is becoming Tlön.

In John Boyd’s current series of works, the figures, sometimes masked, always in profile, move across the painting, entering or exiting the scene depicted. How much we can know about this world is limited to what we can perceive. We do not know where these figures are coming from or going to, but these paintings infer there is more, and that these figures are, indeed, coming from or going to somewhere. We presume the artist, showing us a glimpse of these characters passing by, knows what lies beyond what we see, we presume there is more, but the mystery stays, and we cannot know.