Dave Ball (b.1978, UK) is an artist based in Berlin and Wales.
He studied at Goldsmiths College, London (MA) and the University of Derby, UK (BA). His work explores absurdity, irrationality and the interaction between sense and non-sense. It asks: how are our rational understandings of the world constructed? What are the consequences of these rational structures? In what ways can it be productive to deliberately avoid rationality? And what alternative understandings of the world can be generated through absurd practices? He often uses humour as a way of exploring these ideas, and his work is generally characterised by a philosophical playfulness. Ball works in video, performance, drawing, and photography, and has worked on participatory projects in collaboration with artists and experts from other fields.
Ball has shown widely at venues including Oriel Mostyn, Wales; Laznia Center for Contemporary Art, Gdansk; NGBK, Berlin; Today Art Museum, Beijing; Iniva, London; Atelier 35, Bucharest; and Ha Gamle Prestegard, Norway. Residencies include Est-Nord-Est, Quebec, Canada; Künstlerhäuser Worpswede, Germany; and Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Wales.
Interview Berlin Artparasites
A total work of art? The idea of Gesamtkunstwerk is indeed ambitious and ground-breaking, but it's still current. Dave Ball is working to conform a whole piece of art by visually representing words in alphabetic order as they appear in the dictionary. The young English artist has dedicated himself intensively throughout the past two years to complete the first part of a lifelong project: to draw – with some restrictions – the entries of the Concise Oxford Dictionary. Every word starting with the letter “A” is currently on display at Art Claims Impulse. Featuring over four hundred works, "A to Z: From Aardvark to Axle" is a collection of drawings and prints that hang frameless in three separate rooms. We sought the artist so he could give us some As to our Qs.
Ball wrote a manifesto with certain rules to narrow the infinite spectrum of words as he began his quest. “How many words are there? When you look at a dictionary, that’s the first thing you want to know. The answer is: there’s no answer. Dictionaries are all arbitrary selections. The most complete English dictionary, the Oxford Dictionary, has at the moment two million words and every year it grows and grows. So probably it is a pragmatic thing: I can’t make two million drawings. I chose the Concise Oxford Dictionary completely randomly – it was on my desk.”
Article by Sofía Martinelli
A to Z: From Aardvark to Axle
'A to Z' is an ongoing series of projects based on the premise of making a visualisation for every noun listed in the Concise Oxford English dictionary, starting at "A", and proceeding in alphabetical order. The opening project, 'From Aardvark to Axle' is to make a drawing for each of the approximately 460 "A" words
View sequence of 100 drawings from “animation” to “aridity”.
“A to Z: From Aardvark to Axle” | 466 Drawings various size | 2013 | Installation
The ‘A to Z’ project is clearly absurd, but it also represents a serious attempt to systematically account for what makes up our world. It challenges the notion that some things are more important than others, and instead treats everything within a language equally.
While the conceptual parameters of the project are strictly defined, within this framework there is considerable room for exploration, association, play, and inventiveness. For example, the choice of image which best represents a word must be chosen from an almost infinite number of possibilities; some are straightforward illustrations of objects: for example, “apple” is represented by a drawing of an apple from life. Others require more imaginative leaps: for example “appearance” is represented by a sequence of drawings of a magician conjuring up a white dove. Other, more abstract, words often rely on particular concrete manifestations: for example “annihilation” is represented by a drawing based on a well-known photograph of the mushroom cloud caused by the Nagasaki atomic bomb.
In part the project stems from the basic question: what should an artist take as their subject-matter? Right from the very first week of art school, this question bothered me intensely. Fellow students made work about their personal hang-ups or life story; others used existing artists or styles as their starting point; still others explored the formal concerns of their chosen medium. But I wanted to make art about the world. The trouble was, the world was frustratingly large and complex – where could I possibly begin?
The scale of the project seems ridiculous – but dictionaries and encyclopedias have been written by individuals in the past. In the age of Enlightenment it was seen as a necessary and achievable project to catalogue and understand everything in the world: the scope of knowledge was more or less graspable by single scholars.
But that has all changed: nobody could now claim such authority. There is simply too much to know. And yet, in the age of Google and Wikipedia, knowledge has become so much more accessible. The information is all there; the only problem is what to do with it. With this project, I have decided to respond to everything in the world visually, starting at the beginning of the alphabet, and continuing from there.
A lifetime undertaking, ‘A to Z’ represents a continuation of my explorations into themes of absurdity, subjective interaction with everyday environment, and the construction of rational knowledge.
479 drawings for each of the 479 “B”-words, produced without the use of any visual source material (i.e. made entirely from memory); various media on paper, each 297 x 210mm.
Second project in the A to Z series of projects (2011-ongoing) based on the premise of making a visualisation for every word listed in the Concise Oxford English dictionary, starting at “A”, and proceeding in alphabetical order.
View sequence of 100 drawings from “blizzard” to “bravado”.
831 photographs for each of the 831 “C”-words in the dictionary; dimensions variable.
View sequence of 100 photographs from “cab” to “carcinogen”.
Third project in the A to Z series of projects (2011-ongoing) based on the premise of making a visualisation for every word listed in the
Concise Oxford English dictionary, starting at “A”, and proceeding in alphabetical order.
The Ds (Blind Drawings) 2018‑ongoing
The supremacy of Thought (The Ineffectiveness of Action)
2012; slide projection work (series of eighty 35mm slides projected in sequence).
The work chronicles a journey made by a mackerel from a residential building in Berlin to a nearby stretch of canal. Texts describing the mackerel's innermost thoughts accompany images of its passage through the city. The texts are based on the interior monologues of Mrs Ramsay in Virginia Woolf's 'To the Lighthouse'.
Dave Ball, Bio
Dave Ball (b. 1978, UK) is an artist based in Berlin and Wales. He works in a range of media including video, performance, drawing, photography, installation and participatory projects. His practice is characterised by its use of absurd conceptual structures and what has been described as a “peculiar humour”. He has recently completed a practice-based PhD at Winchester School of Art exploring the use of “tactical absurdity” in (post-)conceptual art, and also holds an MA from Goldsmiths College, London, and a BA from the University of Derby. Solo exhibitions of Ball’s work have been held at Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Wales; Gallery Oldham, Manchester; Winchester Gallery, England; and Galerie Art Claims Impulse, Berlin. Group exhibitions include NGBK, Berlin; Villa Arson, Nice; Laznia Centre for Contemporary Art, Gdansk; Optica, Montreal; Wysing Arts Centre, England; Today Art Museum, Beijing; and Oriel Mostyn, Wales. Residencies include Künstlerhäuser Worpswede, Germany; Est-Nord-Est, Canada; and Nottingham Trent University, UK. Ball was shortlisted for the Berlin Art Prize in 2016.
Dave Ball: Taktisch absurd, Einzelausstellung in der Winchester Gallery, Winchester School of Art, UK
He Told Me to Remaine Silent, Zwei-Personen-Ausstellung kuratiert von Art Claims Impulse, Berlin
Unabgesagt, HilbertRaum, Berlin
A bis Z: Die ersten sieben Jahre, Einzelausstellung in der Gallery Oldham, UK
Die immerwährende Kunst / O Tannenbaum Weihnachtskartenausstellung, O Tannenbaum, Berlin
Punkt Quarz: Blume von Kent, Villa Arson, Nizza, Frankreich
Interpunktionszeichen in einem ewigen Satz: Die Ausstellung, Galerie Alfred, Tel Aviv, Israel
Auktion für Stumme Kunst, The Drawing Hub, Berlin
Searching for the Welsh Landscape, Einzelausstellung im Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Aberystwyth, Wales
Reisebericht, Palazzo Ducali, Mantua, Italien
Reisen / Reisen, Projektraumgruppe Global 3000, Berlin
AVI-Festival, Kinostadt, Jerusalem
Eine Blindauktion, Fernsicht, Berlin
Minimalismus: Standort Aspect Moment, Winchester School of Art, Winchester
Medienbotschaften, HilbertRaum, Berlin
Polyphonien, Optica, Montreal, Kanada
Pikaresk, Ha Gamle Prestegard, Naerbo, Norwegen
Langsamkeit / Langsamkeit, Projektraumgruppe Global 3000, Berlin
Stoff, Galerie Oriel Sycharth, Wrexham, Wales
Offenes Studio, Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Aberystwyth, Wales
Born 1978, Swansea, UK; lives and works in Wales and Berlin. Represented by Galerie Art Claims Impulse, Berlin
2015- PhD Art Practice, Winchester School of Art, UK
2006-2007 MA Contemporary Art Theory, Goldsmiths College, London
1998-2001 BA Fine Art, University of Derby, UK
2016 Searching for the Welsh Landscape, solo show at Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Aberystwyth, Wales
2015 Polyphonies, Optica, Montreal, Canada
2014 Picaresque, Ha Gamle Prestegard, Naerbo, Norway
Slowness/Langsamkeit, Projektraum Group Global 3000, Berlin
Fabric, Oriel Sycharth Gallery, Wrexham, Wales
Open Studio, Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Aberystwyth, Wales
2013 A to Z: From Aardvark to Axle, solo show at Galerie Art Claims Impulse, Berlin
Be Our Guest, Oriel Davies Gallery, Newtown, Wales
To Make the Improbable, Est-Nord-Est, Quebec, Canada
Stranded Travelers, Atelier 35, Bucharest, Romania
Preview Berlin Art Fair 2013, Berlin
Sense and Nonsense: A Festival of Absurdity, Centrum, Berlin
The Picture Show, Galerie Jaap Sleper, Utrecht, Netherlands
Kantine Chapters, Galerie Futura (Alpha Nova-Kulturwerkstatt), Berlin
We Were Trying to Make Sense, 1Shantiroad, Bangalore, India
2012 Ha Ha Road, Oriel Mostyn Gallery, Llandudno, Wales; group show exploring humour; also featuring Fischli & Weiss, Pipilotti Rist, Erwin Wurm, Roman Signer, Bobby Baker, Kirsten Pieroth, Bedwyr Williams and others
Blows to the Temple, Atelierhof Kreuzberg, Berlin
The Alumni Show, Markeaton Street Gallery, University of Derby, Derby
Numbers, Cultivate, Vyner Street, London
17 Days, Atrium Gallery, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo MI, USA
2011 Making Mirrors: Of Body and Gaze, NGBK, Berlin; group show exploring issues of ethnicity and social prejudice featuring Dinner Party project Ha Ha Road, Quad, Derby, UK; group show exploring humour; also featuring Fischli & Weiss, Pipilotti Rist, Erwin Wurm, Roman Signer, Bobby Baker, Kirsten Pieroth, Bedwyr Williams and others
2010 The Dump: Recycling of Thoughts, Laznia Centre for Contemporary Art, Gdansk, Poland; group show utilising Maurice Benayoun's web-initiative for the re-use of concepts
Nude as the News, 91mQ Art Project Space & Kunstraum Richard Sorge, Berlin; 3-person show curated by Sunshine Wong
Stadt am Rande ("Cities on the Edge"), Today Art Museum, Beijing, China; group show exploring urban topology, curated by Melanie Zagrean and Pierre Wolter
Die Kunst der Natur ist die Natur der Kunst ("The Art of Nature is the Nature of Art"), Künstlerverein Walkmühle, Wiesbaden, Germany; group show curated by Axel Schweppe
Field Broadcast, Wysing Arts Centre, Cambridgeshire, UK; project based on live works broadcast remotely from fields; also featuring Simon Faithfull, Susan Collins and Juan Cruz
The Box, Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Wales; rotating series of solo video screenings
2009 Artsway Open 09, Artsway, Sway, Hampshire, UK
Extraordinary Days, Oriel Davies Gallery, Newtown, Wales
Plus 3 Ferris Wheels, [touring:] CEPA Gallery, Buffalo, NY, USA; DDT Delavski dom Trbovlje, Trbovlje, Slovenia;
Richmond Center Art Galleries, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo MI, USA; Smart Wall, Alfred University School of Art & Design; Museum of Fine Arts, Florida State University; Hiram Van Gordon Gallery, Tennessee State University
2008 Dave Ball: How to Live, solo show at Galerie Art Claims Impulse, Berlin
Navigator, The Royal Standard, Liverpool The Mausoleum of Lost Objects, InIVA, London
Closing Down Sale, Another Roadside Attraction Gallery, London
If You Build It They Will Come, g39 Gallery, Cardiff
Speed is Open, Bearspace, London
2007 Disposable Fetish, The Nunnery Gallery, London
Temporary Measures, Associates Gallery, London
In Their Own Words, The End Gallery, Sheffield
2006 Eco Vandalism, Sydenham Hill Woods, London
Beneath, Surface Gallery, Nottingham
Irrational Reels, Rational Rec at Bethnal Green Working Men's Club, London
Art Video Screenings, Village, Västerås, Sweden
Teetotum, Fold Gallery, Cumbria
2005 Service Not Included, ADi Gallery, London
SSA 2005, Royal Scottish Academy Galleries, Edinburgh
The Working World, Surface Gallery, Nottingham
Deptford X, Astra House, London
2004 Love N Bullets, Transition Gallery, London
Max10, Falmouth Arts Centre, Falmouth
Damn Fine Cup Coffee, Rowse Close, London
Flat, Hackney Road, London
2003 Lux Open, Royal College of Art, London
The Joy of Kitsch, Oriel Myrddin Gallery, Carmarthen
picsel+, g39 Gallery, Cardiff
made@home, Aspex Gallery, Portsmouth
Purescreen, Castlefield Gallery, Manchester
2002 Tabula Rasa, site-specific projections in Croydon, London
Nature Selected Them for Extinction, Charlton Bonds Building, Newcastle
2001 After the Umbilical Cord Was Cut Somebody Smacked My Arse and I Began to Breathe, Britannia Mill, Derby; degree show
Models of Practice, Dilston Grove, London
2014 Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Aberystwyth, Wales; 3-month residency at Thomas Heatherwick-designed studios
2013 Est-Nord-Est, Saint-Jean-Port-Joli, Quebec, Canada; 8-week residency followed by exhibition; jointly funded by Est-Nord-Est and Wales Arts International
2009 Künstlerhäuser Worpswede, Germany; grant awarded for 3-month residency
2008 Galerie Art Claims Impulse, Berlin; six-week residency followed by solo show
2006 Fold Gallery, Cumbria; part of Teetotum series of artists' residencies
Curatorial & Collaborative Projects
2011-15 Dinner Party; collaborative participatory project with Oliver Walker exploring social interaction through remote communicative intervention; shown at NGBK in Berlin, Oriel Davies in Newtown, Wales and Optica in Montreal.
2011-12 Ha Ha Road, Oriel Mostyn Gallery, Llandundo, Wales and Quad, Derby; group exhibition exploring humour, curated in collaboration with Sophie Springer
2011 Schöne Pleite: Politische Karikaturen von Klaus Stuttman ("Pretty Broke: Political Caricatures by Klaus Stuttman"), Galerie im Saalbau, Kulturamt Neukölln, Berlin; exhibition curated in collaboration with Oliver Walker and Dorothea Kolland
2010 Airshow, Tempelhof airfield, Berlin & Wysing Arts Centre, Cambridgeshire, UK; collaboration with Oliver Walker investigating former airfield through a remotely broadcast aeroplane noise simulation contest
2006 Coryat's Crudities, various locations in Nottingham, UK; Discotheque project exploring notions of tourism, using the suitcase as a central motif
2005 The Glorious Twelfth, Deptford X, London; Discotheque investigation into the implications of an urban recontextualisation of a traditional grouse hunt Strangers on a Train, London to Newcastle train route; Discotheque travel and exchange project
2004 Damn Fine Cup of Coffee, Acme Studios, London; Discotheque group show Flat, Hackney Road, London; Discotheque group show
2015 Arts Council of Wales production grant for solo exhibition at Aberystwyth Arts Centre
2015 British Council Canada grant to participate in Polyphonies exhibition at Optica, Montreal
2013 Travel grant awarded by Wales Arts International to support residency at Est-Nord-Est, Quebec, Canada
2009 Grant awarded for 3-month residency at Künstlerhäuser Worpswede, Germany
2008 Shortlisted for New Contemporaries 2008
2006 Open Frequency; practice nominated by Anthony Shapland for Axis survey of new developments in contemporary art
2005 NAN bursary for Strangers on a Train project