This Interim Exhibition was a chance to show a new piece of work, alongside the work of others, but making use of a range of spaces: the Centre for Drawing, the Portakabin studio, 26 Paces, main Reception and the Cell (a small room shared with MA Painting). The undergraduate term had not yet started so everywhere was strangely quiet: less response to the work, but also an easier installation.
I chose to show in the Portakabin as that fitted with my archive aesthetic: industrial shelving, with my work, Gift of Silence (the wax-dipped, hand-bound book), in an archive box with a content label, and the ‘film of the book’, To the Sunlit Uplands, viewed on an iPad.
Tania Kovats, our course-leader proposed a different format for the Group Crit: instead of each person introducing their work, the rest of us had to describe what it was – a phenomenological approach. This proved surprisingly difficult; it is easy to launch into interpretations of what something is about, or to make assumptions about what it is, and what it is made from.
But as an artist, what you get is the unvarnished truth about what people make of it, unaffected by prior remarks from you about what you were thinking or what you intended.
Everyone gathered round to watch the film and to look at the installation before starting to describe it. That wasn’t quite what I had in mind – 17 people huddled round an iPad! One person thought that it wasn’t appropriate to show the film on an iPad because it can only really be seen by one person at a time. Others thought that that was the point: you would handle the iPad like a book; it would be an intimate viewing. It’s a fair point that it’s not a format for group viewing and of course we didn’t know until the day that this is how it would be seen but had I known, I would still have made the same choice: I want people to experience the film as a book, the only possible way of reading the book, now that it has been sealed.
I was pleasantly surprised by the extent to which people understood that it was an archive, and that the film was a ‘reading’ of the book. The group were nudged by Tania towards thinking about the relationship between the film and the box: was the book in the box the same as the one in the film? And no-one even attempted to open the box!
That highlights the big question for me: do I want people to open the box? and if so, how do I indicate that they can/should? I do want people to look in the box (and at the Assessment show next month I plan to have several boxes) and I was surprised that a bunch of fellow art students were so reluctant to rummage around. But if they are, how much more so will others be.
Various suggestions were made about guiding people: signage – which I feel would be a last resort; or having the box part opened – I suspect people still might not open it fully; or even treating it like a proper archive, with ‘archive access request’ forms – but how would that operate? I don’t want to be an ‘archive supervisor’. At the moment, the approach I’m leaning towards is having a ‘viewing table’ alongside, with, yes, a sign saying something about this being the space to explore.