2014 January: Curating a Corridor Show

Here are some experiments with the Wacom tablet on Photoshop CS6. I’m playing around with different brushes and thicknesses of stroke available on the program in the first image. The second is a detail from one of my recent drawings (the organs that are floating in space), and the third is a further manipulation of it using the wacom pen. I felt like accentuating some of the edges with a thicker stroke – my tutor suggested playing with different thicknesses of pen to see if anything would happen with the dimensionality in the drawing, and I thought it was an interesting idea.

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Today I just finished putting up the corridor show I had been responsible for over the past week. When T suggested it to me I was quite keen on the idea. I think curating is something like stringing a narrative out of things that belong elsewhere, and I was always interested in narrative. I often imagine some kind of strange correlation even between my most contrasting work, such as between the videos and the drawings. At the end of my International Baccalaureate course last year, passing my Visual Arts subject required me to make an exhibition out of the work I’d done over the past two years. I had an assortment of things which I took great joy in putting together in a manner that would create an atmosphere that somehow made sense despite the individuality of each work. From the work I had made I realised I took an interest in playing characters, whether it be the glamorous diva, an activist/journalist, a detective, a prophet, a researcher – all with a bit of a post-apocalyptic sci-fi ring to it. The focus of the exhibition (displayed in a school classroom) was to look like the room of a glamorous femme fatale, surrounded by a dress I’d made, wine glasses, roses, grapes, old books, fur, an abundance of self portraits, handbags, shoes, jewellery and a red velvet sofa on which I reclined in a full-fledged diva outfit of a silk robe and elegant shoes for the duration of the whole exhibition. This notion intersected with a film noir-ish crime scene of broken umbrellas and a ruddy atmosphere of technological devolution in the other corner. I had my interview videos playing to serve some kind of evidence for what was going on, alongside the forensic site of the neglected umbrella. I lay as there as suspicious as one of Hitchcock’s villains and these minor tensions and intrigues convoluted themselves with the universal morality of The Railway Rocket Dog fable and accompanying drawings.

I had a lot of fun with that one and a couple of times made some long-shot exhibition proposals to galleries (which never worked out). Once I wanted to exhibit my collection of broken/discarded umbrella photographs and install the above umbrella without the forensic theme. The series was called Parapleure (view here).

But it has never occurred to me to curate someone else’s work. It is quite a responsibility, as a curator’s influence casts a particular shade over all the works and forces the gaze such that a single work is inevitably somewhat robbed of its individuality. In return, a curator hopes that her additional layer of narration overcomes this loss by creating a viewing experience that otherwise would not have been possible.

But in the task of selecting among my own and my fellow-student’s work, I decided not to attempt to impose a narrative on work I liked but rather choose work that simply stated what was going on in our studios, and rather listen to what the pieces themselves seemed to say in unison. What I saw when I went around the studios asking what people were up to, was that there were a lot of experiments and unfinished proceedings. My peers were modest and unsure about what to show because they didn’t feel they had any “final” work. The work-in-progress was undoubtedly interesting though, and I felt that bits from sketchbooks or experimental beginnings of ideas bore a kind of integrity in their gentleness and modesty. Aaron Grey had a marvellous wall of bits of acetate with markings from walls and doors of museums transferred and printed onto them, interesting little photographs totally out of any context I understood, delicate tracings and mysterious notes. Violet had a series of what looked like surveillance photos taken from her bedroom window, and an eerie old pocket bible with strange photos stuck onto certain pages. Josh had been gathering film stills of scenes that repeated themselves across numerous films: he caught characters in the same cliche instances (such as gazing out of a window) and positioned them alongside one another. What struck me about those was how each character which was so living in its own right, was then caught unawares of its identical predecessors living the same scene, or making the same gesture.

These unfinished remnants of ongoing artistic discovery were precious to me. They recalled the rare moments when my mind had focused intently, nonverbally, on something I was making. The making itself leads to the next step, and during this process time halts and the ego is too distant to intervene. This is as I understand, the very thing Picasso attributed to children’s success as artists.

I collected such pieces in addition to other works that may have been considered finished, but that possessed a similar contemplative, entrancing and gentle quality from 12 artists. I called my show “The Middle of Adventure is a Perfect Place to Start”, which is stolen from The Arctic Monkeys’ lyrics. I found it befitting considering this was the first corridor show for our first year painters, and I hoped that the delight and insight I had discovered in artist’s work captured in mid-adventure might serve to counter the anxiety first-year artists might feel about finishing work and packaging ideas into the consumable goods seemingly required of an art career.

I was surprised how much I was learning, not only by attempting to make a selection of work, but by installing it. I felt very lucky to have a technician such as T work with me on this, who shared invaluable experience and perspectives on presentational considerations, such as viewing an artwork from various angles when deciding its placement, and nifty yet crucial technical methods of how to calculate the desired spacing between work and ensure their parallel alignment. I wanted to make an attempt at including a statement, along with a list of credited artists and descriptions, which went as follows:

 

The Middle of Adventure is a Perfect Place to Start

This week’s corridor show explores the sincerity of a work-in-progress. It hopes to capture the humble involvement of devoted creators, from Aaron Grey’s meticulous studies of secret man-made marks on museum doors and walls, to Catherine Taylor’s gentle paintings of stretching bodies. Where Joshua Crowe captures characters caught in the same formulaic instances across the history of cinema, Jessica Heywood battles with the ambiguity of this both bitter and promising city through her “Letters to London”. These precious sketches, hand-written texts and careful studies freeze those contemplative moments of discovery in an artist’s endeavour.

I’m very pleased with the result and enjoy the dynamic reactions and opinions of fellow students. I would certainly enjoy a job in assisting installation/curation of work.

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