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Transition: Curator's Edition
Week 3: 6th to 10th February, 2008: Sara Bowler & Art Surgery
Curated by Art Surgery (Andy Whall and Delpha Hudson)
The third week of 'Transition: Curators Edition' saw two projects that, as art exhibitions, were unconventional in both their structure and intentions.
Art Surgery, featuring live art practitioners Andy Whall and Delpha Hudson, used the space of the upper gallery as a studio in which the public could witness their detailed and protracted preparations for a performance that was delivered in the same space on the Saturday night. They were assisted in this by collaborators Mr Be Clown, a real clown, and Alban Roinard, a film-maker. The former acted as mentor and clowning tutor, whilst the latter filmed the process.
Called 'Thats Entertainment!', the artists were interested in the question of whether critical art practice can, or should, ever be entertaining given that entertainment generally involves affirming, rather than challenging, an audience's existing beliefs. In order to explore this issue they brought together two opposing sets of elements, which on the night of the performance were pitted against each other.
photos: Andy Hughes
On the one hand was a clown (Hudson), with outsized suit and face painted white, welcoming and flattering the audience, attempting to engage them using familiar age-old clowning techniques and banter, which together with a destructive monkey or gorilla figure (Whall), seemed to represent the simple, base pleasures of accessible mass culture. On the other was the figure of Walter Benjamin and his suitcase of writings, and a besuited performance artist, both of whom seemed to represent critical theory, and more rarified intellectual and avant garde practices.
stills from video: Alban Roinard
Benjamin is thought to have committed suicide whilst attempting to escape from occupied France, and when he died a suitcase containing several important manuscripts was also lost. The wooden platform dominating the gallery space seemed to correspond to the mountain village in which he died, and the dénouement of the Art Surgery performance, saw his papers being trashed by being thrown to the floor.
As a critic affiliated with the Frankfurt school, Benjamin was concerned with the effect of mechanical reproduction and mass culture on critical or revolutionary consciousness. At a time when art seems to have lost its aspirations to be a serious force for change in the world (especially in Cornwall) these continue to be important and interesting themes.
offsite : inside
Curated by Sara Bowler
Sara Bowler was the only curator who did not also show her own work as part of Transition show. Instead she unselfishly focused on five artists who over the previous year or so had made site-specific work outside the gallery as part of 'artist-initiated projects' across the county.
What happens when work of this kind is brought into the gallery? Does its meaning change, and if so, how much, and in what ways? In order to test this out five artists had a day each in which to show work in the lower gallery. Stacey Righton wrote an autobiographical text using rhododendron charcoal on a long roll of paper, and Bruce Davies showed evidence of 'ring-barking', used as a technique for woodland management, on the Penrose estate on the Lizard.
James Hankey showed some of his characteristic photographs shot using long-exposures at night, as well as a video of their making. Lizzie Masterton showed 'There'll always be an England' made originally for 'Happidrome' near Goonhilly, and on the final day 'From me to you' by Jacqui Knight was installed in the space. This comprised two super8 projectors showing images of tennis balls and rackets that together spelt out morse code, and like Masterton's piece was made originally for 'More' Cornwall.
photos: Sara Bowler