Richard Wilson, 20:50, 1987 (Matt’s Gallery, Martello Street, London)
Art can make us see the world differently. Certainly the way both Gordon Matta-Clark and Richard Wilson have cut away sections of buildings challenges our perception of architecture making us see city spaces differenttly in a literal but nonethheless interesting way.
Wilson’s iinstallation 20:50, a room with a seemingly mirrored surface at roughly waist height, offers a strangely new understanding of the space it’s installed in. For the unsuspecting visitor, the first clue about the nature of the surface is the smell, approaching the room one is greeted with a powerful aroma of oil. Suddenly the title – 20:50 – makes sense: the room is flooded with used engine oil. A walkway leads out into the middle of the space, from which you get to see the features of the room reflected all around you.
Quite high on the list of art I wish I’d seen is Richard Wilson’s installation for the 2007 Liverpool Biennial. Like other works by Wilson, who is probably best known for his installation 20:50 at the Saatchi Gallery (about which more another time, possibly even tomorrow now that it’s in my head), Turning the Place Over was an architectural intervention on an ambitious scale but unlike 20:50 this was a temporary installation made by messing with the fabric of an empty building.
One of my main preoccupations over the last couple of weeks while preparing for the end of year exhibition is how to divide up the space. Obviously for me this involves figuring out where the walls should go and what should go where to make the exhibition make as much sense as possible. But, you know, a bit of literal mindedness and it’s only a small leap from how to divide the studio to Gordon Matta-Clark and the chainsaw and sledgehammer approach to redefining architectural space.
The 1970s may have a lot to answer for in all sorts of ways, but some pretty ground-breaking – or in Matta-Clark’s case building-breaking – art was made then and it’s work that still resonates and that continues to influence subsequent generations of artists.
As the end of the academic year approaches, the time has come to turn a very messy art school studio into as good an approximation of a white cube gallery space as possible. I love the process of making the end of year exhibition but I’m not so keen on the construction part of it. All that filling, sanding, cleaning and painting is stupidly tiring – even for me, and frankly I mostly direct proceedings while others to the actual work – and pretty stressful. We always get it done but there’s always a point where it seems like we won’t. Which brings my thoughts to work that reminds me of the tools we need and the work that needs doing.
Susan Collis’s work fits the bill perfectly. After all, her exhibition Don’t Get Your Hopes was basically a gallery in need of some art, right? Well, appearances can be deceptive.
Jeremy Deller, Open Bedroom, 1993 (reconstruction)
Like David Shrigley, Jeremy Deller is an artist whose work doesnt always fit easily into the gallery space. Unlike Shrigley though, when his work is brought together as an exhibiton it exceeds expectations. Joy in People at the Hayward Gallery is a show that is much more than the sum of its parts. And there are some pretty great parts.
In 1993, while others were holding open studios, Deller staged Open Bedroom, his first exhibition, in his parents’ house while they were on holiday. The work, his teenage bedroom presented as art, is reconstructed here as the route into both the show and the head of the artist. We get to open drawers and cupboards and explore the ideas, images and objects that fascinated the young Deller. It’s a great start and a useful grounding for a show that picks up these enthusiasms and makes them art.
The television interventions of the likes of Hall, Arnatt and Burden are things I always tend to think wouldn’t happen now, or at least not on mainstream television. But there’s this nagging doubt that say, but if those things aren’t possible, how did art – and pretty subversive art at that – sneak its way into Melrose Place (yes, Melrose Place, an Aaron Spelling production) as recently as the mid to late 1990s? It doesn’t sound likely. And yet, it happened.
David Hall, Interruption piece and Tap piece from TV Interruptions (7 TV pieces), 1971
Art and television don’t have much of a relationship. There are programmes about art, of course, but even though video art is pretty common in galleries, there’s not much actual art on TV. To an extent, it was ever thus. But there are some interesting examples, and as the analogue switch-off approaches here in London, it seems like a good time to think about them, especially as the occasion is being marked at Ambika P3 with a timely exhibition of David Hall’s work.
Trained as a sculptor, David Hall turned his attention to experimental film at the start of the 1970s, ultimately becoming a pioneer artists’ film and video in Britain, and coining the phrase time-based media. In 1971, Hall was commissioned to make a series of works to be broadcast on Scottish television. This series of TV interruptions were broadcast unannounced and uncredited to what must have been a somewhat baffled audience.
I confess to not much liking spiders. If they stayed outdoors I’d feel a lot more benevolent towards them, but when they come inside and scurry about like they own the place they make me distinctly edgy. But even I acknowledge that they do make very beautiful webs. In her Mended Spiderweb series – part of a large body of work called Uninvited collaborations with nature – Nina Katchadourian has helped out by patching up damaged spiders’ webs with fine red thread. The results are not only very beautiful, they are also unexpectedly interesting.
Invigilating exhibitions is fundamentally pretty boring. There is a lot of sitting around, often without anyone to talk to. In the days before smart phones, laptops and WiFi made spending the time pissing about on the internet an easy option, you had to make your own entertainment. In 1998, while running Gallerie Poo Poo, the artists’ group BANK did just that.
There is always reading matter in galleries. If nothing else, press releases from other galleries arrive daily and it was to these that BANK artists Simon Bedwell, Milly Thompson and John Russell turned to while away long afternoons in the gallery. They were artists after all, and running a gallery; why wouldn’t they want to stay abreast of what was on and read about art? As is happened though, they didn’t much like what they read.
And so it began: The BANK Fax-Bak Service: Helping You Help Yourselves!
Cildo Meireles, Insertions into Ideological Circuits, 1970
Fundamental to my view of art is the idea that it can come from anywhere and be made of anything and for me a great example of that is the work made by the Brazilian artist Cildo Meireles in the early 1970s, specifically his Insertions into Ideologoical Circuits an example of which is shown here.
For this work, Meireles used the return and refill system operated at that time for soda bottles. Meireles would doctor Coca Cola bottles, adding messages that were all but invisible on the empty bottle but which appeared when the bottle was filled with the conveniently dark liquid. The bottles would them be returned into the system, refilled with coke and distributed to shops.