Florence Peake: Make

Article excerpt

The activity of transporting, moving, unpacking and installing sculpture is ever present at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, proceeding unobtrusively around the park, outdoors and indoors. It is a continuous performance, unnoticed until one chooses to focus upon it, rather like birdwatching. Huge lorries lumber quietly into the periphery of the park to offload massive sculptures, each bringing with it an equal mass of packing materials--wooden crates, polystyrene, foam rubber, cardboard, adhesive tape--all of which has to be removed and hidden away.

Florence Peake became aware of this unappreciated activity in 2010, when she was one of five artists to take part in a project conceived by artist Joshua Sofaer for the Live Art Development Agency in collaboration with the Yorkshire Sculpture Park to develop a 'bespoke proposal' for a new work related to the park. MAKE, a substantial live work produced in partnership with Dance Art Foundation, is the outcome of that process. Probably uniquely, it serves to reframe this hidden performative life of sculptural art objects and their carers.

It took place in the spacious gallery at Longside, in a far-flung part of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park empty between exhibitions. This is also where Arts Council England stores its sculpture collection. Unlike her previous solo and duo performance works, Peake does not perform in this work herself. It is for ten female performers, most, if not all, trained in 'movement practice'. At the beginning of MAKE, each performer takes one of a series of lengths of twoby-one timber that are leaning against the long wall behind them like an embryonic minimal sculpture and covers it completely using a roll of adhesive tape, each a different colour. Some performers complete this task quickly, others not quite so. No music accompanies the performance, nor does it incorporate any spoken text (as Peake has done in the past). But the performance is far from silent, and the loud sounds of adhesive tape being unrolled en masse, sonorously rending the echoing air of an empty art gallery, are both memorable and identifi able as sounds heard while packing a busy exhibition.

Duos and small groups of performers move to various points within the space, carrying with them one or more of the coloured sticks, arranging them carefully tip to tip in sculptural ways, temporarily forming spatial-linear objects reminiscent of the abstract sculpture of, say, John Panting or George Rickey. At each configuration the performers holding the coloured sticks pause and pose, presenting the sculptural forms they have quickly made to us, the audience, for our appraisal and serious consideration--and it is quite possible to enter into that relationship. But there is also heavy irony in the air, a commentary upon the utmost seriousness which abstract sculpture of a certain kind must be accorded. …