Our intention for the show was to concentrate very much on the idea of collaboration, with works merging into each other, so that one artists work was not necessarily identifiable. It was an exercise in questioning the idea of space, but also questioning the way we traditionally hang work. If group shows intend to show a theme, to unite artists etc, then we could push this by amalgamating and contaminating each others work.
Donald Smith (who chaired our expanded crit) really related to this idea, but said we fell short, because it appeared as if we got scared, and started to worry about putting on an ‘exhibition’. I totally agree with this, there was a moment in the process where we refined what was an impulsive and chaotic hang, and perhaps we should have followed that. He suggested ways of pushing our initial idea further by breaking down the work, blocking off doorways to interrupt the flow of the space, and for the work that had a very set way of being installed to be taken through the whole space instead of being static and permanent.
We had comments that some rooms felt like they were architectural, and that another was quite fun and playful. I quite liked that there were distinctions between each room.
It’s interesting because this way of working, as you suggested alienates the viewer and makes it increasingly difficult for non art background audiences to engage with. But I found it to be a really intriguing way to work; it allowed me to question all of the rules and restrictions that we place on ourselves. So this can be anything from working within a strict picture plane, or standard ways of exhibiting work. I guess at the risk of alienating people we hope to get somewhere new and unknown to us.
It’s a very complex thing, to know what is right, to know whether to stay painting in the same picture plane, to know whether to stop painting, to know whether to use the figure… how can we make work and images that reflect us as individuals when everyone is an individual. We have to also battle with everything that has gone before and find our own way in a confusing and chaotic organism, that is revolved around money, whitecube spaces and ego.
But also, maybe some onus should be placed on the viewer, that they should be more active in there viewing of contemporary art, that it is ok to not understand everything clearly and that maybe you have to spend some time with it to work it out. To me it’s the difference between watching a Michael Bay film and watching a David Lynch film, you have to tune into it, to begin to engage with it and maybe not both are for everyone.
Today we had our expanded crit event in the gallery space with Donald Smith and after a few quite intense few days (weeks) this was a important opportunity to step back and consider what we’d done with this show. And I think for each of us a hugely positive process.
The general very positive points were that we’d managed to form this group and that there were very genuine underlying concerns criss-crossing between artists and practices. What the discussions brought to the fore is that the show did certainly have elements of what we were trying to do (hybrid, layered, experimental, interrupted spaces) we didn’t quite manage to follow this through with the show as a whole. But I think we were and are certainly on the right track and I think a lesson learnt in communication and confidence of intention and (paradoxically) being comfortable with risk. ‘Risk’ is a term that cropped up – difficulties with genuine risk and risk for risk’s sake – for me here it would be, very simply, making decisions that are (and continue to be) unsures.
Perhaps were we came slightly unstuck is overconsideration. I think the spontaneity of this show was everything, the movement and momentum. Certainly when we arrived and dropped of our work in masses there was every potential in that mess! And as things were unpacked and moved and abandoned and annexed (by Henry or Siobhan!) it was these early movements and shiftings that led to impromptu, temporary or underpinning configurations that I think formed the basis of the install. And to continue in this approach would certainly be a risk. When is an exhibition ready when done in this way? Is the idea of having this ongoing install process as the exhibition – layering and removing, continually evolving. And in a way this would remove any curatorial responsibility, anxiety and so too ultimately, ironically, the risk.