By Tim Adams
Yorkshire Sculpture Park, near Wakefield
A survey of late 20th-century artistic activism feels unfocused alongside the Chilean artist's dark forest of prison cells
The rousing chorus of The Internationale can rarely have sounded as fragile or halting as it does on a frosty morning in the walled garden of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park near Wakefield. The Scottish artist Susan Philipsz recorded the revolutionaries' anthem as a sotto voce solo in 1999 almost as a funerary farewell to the idea of full-throated protest. In the open air, in 2018, hearing Philipsz's breathy voice eddying on a biting wind is like being stopped in your tracks by Wordsworth's otherworldly Solitary Reaper. If it is a call to arms, it is a distinctly tentative one. The song instead acts as a plaintive summons to the park's Bothy Gallery, where other lost traces of the direct action of the last century are preserved, as if of a different time and place altogether.
Revolt and Revolutions takes as its reference point 1977, the year of punk and the year in which the Yorkshire Sculpture Park was founded, as an outsiders' outside space, by the visionary Peter Murray, who is still its director. Forty years on, the gallery presents a small and thoughtful expression of things that then seemed loud and urgent – experience looking back at innocence. In one room, 2011 Turner prize winner Martin Boyce‘s Souvenir Placards are piled on the floor or propped against a wall, a mix and match of marchers' slogans: “Ban the Bomb”, “Coal Not Dole”, “Can't Pay, Won't Pay”. The signs are either discarded for good, or feasibly ready for action, depending on your point of view.