Magazine article Art Monthly

London Round-Up

Magazine article Art Monthly

London Round-Up

Article excerpt

The gauntlet was thrown down early in the day. In a talk titled Parasites Like Us: Studies of the Possible in Impossible Times, educator and researcher Janna Graham described most exhibition models as following what Paulo Freire had described in the Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 1968, as the 'banking model': the audience is an empty vessel filled up with culture, which is handed down from above by the artist via a curator. Graham, a member of collective Ultra-Red and curator at the Serpentine Gallery's offsite Centre for Possible Studies on Edgware Road, proposed a series of other possible bottom-up and lateral models where these roles could be shifted, shared or dispersed.

Her critical and claustrophobic talk was a keynote presentation as part of Exhibition as Medium: End Symposium, a day of presentations at The Showroom capping off a year-long programme at Margate's Crate Studio and Project Space curated by Toby Huddlestone. Huddlestone had sought, over six 'experimental' exhibitions and various events, to explore process over product, 'alternate modes of exhibition format via the presentation of research through production'. Much of the day consisted of talks describing the six exhibitions, and though each proposed a slightly different approach - such as a group of artists collaborating in reaction to Fischli & Weiss's The Way Things Go, 1987, or six curators creating works based on instructions from Scottish artist Desmond Church - each time the constrictions of the framework imposed were raised as an issue. It seems that Freire's hierarchical model ran through much of the project and by the end of the day was still standing.

The only speaker to raise the issue of audience in the equation was Dave Beech, who began to speak about hospitality and the viewer of an artwork as a form of guest, only for his Skype link to break off. Huddlestone, in the closing discussion, further qualified this: 'we want curators, writers, artists to be our primary audience'. Together, these statements implied some sort of sustained relationship and involvement, and precipitated a discussion of the contradictions inherent in the day: the paradoxes involved in presenting a series of Margatebased projects, which were spoken of as 'ongoing, middle points' rather than end points, at an 'end symposium' with an uninvolved, though not uninterested, London audience. Given the necessary mediation and narration that process-led, self-generating projects require, perhaps it is not so much exhibition as medium but more, as participant Ian White jokingly commented in passing, 'symposium as medium'.

But despite the symposium's silent implication that object-based exhibitions were more 'finished' and somehow less involving, a number of concurrent exhibitions around London lit on different aspects and problems brought up that day. For instance, according to the press release for 'Maquette for an e-card', Gino Saccone's solo show at Supplement, 'It's all of a process, but a process is resolutely not a story (let's not get carried away)'. The physical contents of the show itself are scattershot, a constantly shifting arrangement of hastily painted cardboard, draped cloth, piles of varnish and wood. Two cat-flaps sit at either end of a length of unprimed canvas covering one wall, while a projector lights up a dull orange bulb protruding from its socket. A lit candle sits next to a photo of a drawing on a dilapidated billboard, and in this light it seems we are part of an odd seance. …

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