In ‘Existence Experiments’, Stu Herring exhibits the preparatory drawings of his recent performances as well as drawings of unrealised or imaginary projects. Herring creates work to expand his personal understanding of existence and society, he undertakes ceremonial tasks designed to alter his perceived reality and challenge that of the viewer’s perception of ‘normal’ or ‘ordinary’ behaviour.
Herring’s performances encompass ritualistic elements from various cultures – borrowing ideas from the sadhus, Hindu holy men of India, and the stylites or pillar-saints, the Christian ascetics in the early days of the Byzantine Empire (in modern day Turkey) who lived on pillars, preaching, fasting and praying. Herring plays with the characteristics of asceticism, the practice of abstinence or restraint. He often puts himself into situations that test the body’s endurance or place restrictions on his movements or are physically isolating. Within these solitary tasks, Herring finds himself in a mindset that by contrast to his gruelling actions, furthers his personal understanding of freedom.
In allowing these acts to be viewed Herring hopes to evoke feelings, or awaken memories within viewers of their own everyday struggles to maintain their individual freedom in what often seems an increasingly regimented and confining world.