Magazine article Art Monthly

Studies for an Exhibition

Magazine article Art Monthly

Studies for an Exhibition

Article excerpt

Studies for an Exhibition

David Roberts Art Foundation London

7 April to 11 June

Some exhibitions simply sound better on paper. Over the past few years, curator Matthieu Copeland has devoted his time to examining what that sound might be, its tone of potential and promise, and how far a cry it is from the actual works that inhabit a space. Attempting to align performative and ephemeral artists' practices into a standardised gallery schedule in order to do so is no easy task, and Copeland has padded out his intervention with a series of publications, CDs and DVDs as forms of curatorial missives. Invited to take part as the fourth in the David Roberts Art Foundation Curator's Series, the group show 'Studies for an Exhibition' is Copeland's latest assemblage of live readings, unstable objects and uncertain presences. These 'studies' are posed as a set of sketches and propositions, but not so much towards what this particular nascent exhibition could become, but rather as a generic set of tactics any exhibition curator might employ.

What appeared as the centrepiece of the show is the booklet An Exhibition to Hear Read Vol 3, nine texts by artists from Robert Barry to Cally Spooner, recited each day in the gallery space. While contributions from Bethan Huws and Nicolas Gerait create interesting gaps in their performance, jumping between visual and temporal description, other texts where Barry urges us to 'Say SOMETHING in gold', and David Medalla's romanticised diary entry are less engaging as enacted works. The book itself seems to have been included to embody the 'live' element of the show that is otherwise absent from the rest of the exhibition. The scuffed white rectangular and circular canvases of Karin Sander's Mailed Paintings, 2004-11, line the back wall, the only marks the artist might have made on them potentially being the handwriting filling in the FedEx forms that are affixed to a few of the surfaces. The black dirt and scrapes of being in transit highlight their edges and contours, but the mute canvases make clear that their meaning isn't here in the gallery--in our encounter with them but in the movement between gallery and artist as they are sent back and forth from London to Berlin throughout the show. When I visited, a set of empty frames and a gaggle of handouts made up the shifting elements of Elena Bajo's Illusion, Delusion, Allusion: The Order of Anarchy (Studies for a Movement at 66 r.p.m), 2011. The handouts disclose the artist's conversations with the curator, including a list of proposed events for each day that attempt to convey a living sense of anarchy through minute performances and hidden disruptions. In one event described, a handout was available with 73 definitions of 'anarchy'. Perhaps tellingly, at least six out of the 66 suggestions on Bajo's list say 'This event intentionally left blank'.

The most visually prominent of Copeland's 'studies' are those of historical recreation. The front windows of the gallery hold a set of posters for the 1956 Whitechapel exhibition 'This is Tomorrow', re-creating an act by Gustav Metzger who adorned his junk shop in King's Lynn, Norfolk, with advertisements for the then concurrent show. In the present, with the Whitechapel featuring a retrospective archival look at 'This is Tomorrow', Copeland reinstates the act, its fandom curbed only by the continually nagging question of what this 'tomorrow' might be. …

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