Villa Design Group: The Tragedy Machine

Chandelier with orange glass orbs hangs above a multi-level stage with green banquettes, before a colorful trifold screen.

Villa Design Group, Theater or Cruelty (Cometh, Cometh, Cometh), 2016. Metal laminate, stone laminate, steel frame, wood, 46 5/8 x 192 x 192 in. Courtesy the artists and Mathew Gallery. Installation detail view, Villa Design Group: Tragedy Machine, MIT List Visual Arts Center, 2016. Photo: John Kennard.

Reference Gallery
Featured Artists
Than Hussein Clark
James Connick
William Joys
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Villa Design Group creates sculptures, videos, and scripted performances inspired by the formal languages of architecture, theater, and the decorative arts.

The London-based collective—comprised of Than Hussein Clark, James Connick, and William Joys—seeks to create a “theater of design” inhabited by “queer objects.” These objects are embedded in speculative narratives that ask what it might mean for a thing, not a person, to be queer today. 

Tragedy Machine, Villa Design Group’s new body of work realized for the List Visual Arts Center, comprises sculptures and a four-act theatrical production imagining the potential of an automated machine or software with the ability to compose tragic and dramatic scripts. The exhibition includes three large-scale architectural installations, sculptural costumes, and lighting that considers this potential and also reflects the group’s interest in set design and staging.

Tragedy Machine also serves as the premiere of This Is It or Dawn at Bar Bazuhka (2016), the group’s most recent theatrical production, an adaptation of Eugene O’Neill’s play The Iceman Cometh (1939), transposing the story from New York’s Greenwich Village to a gay nightclub on the Greek Island of Skiathos. The performance takes place May 21st at 4pm in Reference Gallery.  Seating is limited and registration is required.  For more information click here.

Villa Design Group is Than Hussein Clark, James Connick, and William Joys, who met at Goldsmiths, University of London in 2011. Recent and upcoming performances and exhibitions include Edinburgh Art Festival; Blue Moon at Mathew Gallery, Berlin; KUB Arena; Kunsthaus Bregenz; Bundeskunsthalle Bonn; Mathew Gallery, New York; and mumok, Vienna.

Villa Design Group: Tragedy Machine is curated by Alise Upitis, Assistant Curator, Public Art and Exhibitions, MIT List Visual Arts Center.


Exhibitions at the List Center are made possible with the support of Cynthia & John Reed and Terry & Rick Stone.

General operating support is provided by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Council for the Arts at MIT, the Office of the Associate Provost at MIT, the MIT School of Architecture + Planning, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and many generous individual donors. The Advisory Committee Members of the List Visual Arts Center are gratefully acknowledged.