Context, Curation, Exhibitions

In December (I know, I know…) I had the privilege of working extensively with the DJCAD exhibitions team in preparation for the third installment of Edgar Schmitz: Surplus Cameo Decor; Sindanao.  Building upon the set up already present from parts one and two, Sindanao pushed the Cooper Gallery space even further towards a film set allowing each of the cameo actors to take centre stage as themselves in this unique scenario.  Featuring Wan Nanming and Lisa Le Feuvre (a most splendid name), the Sindanao opening was an ambient evening of people watching and socialising.  Rather bizarrely I met the artist himself when he popped out for a cheeky smoke whilst I was door-minding and we had a brilliant chat about travelling the world and bilingual children.  He is most definitely the kind of person who instantly makes you very comfortable; it was like we had known each other for at least a little while.

hoto: Ross Fraser Maclean

In the same week, and as a satellite of Sindanao, was the Hubs and Fictions forum.  Featuring our cameos from the previous evening in addition to Markus Miessen (architect/writer, Berlin) and Simon Groom (Director, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art), this was a relatively informal, but incredibly informative afternoon “[staging] questions after the status of exhibition narratives and the broader milieus they claim as their own.”  Each of the aforementioned spoke; Wang Nanming spoke extensively about the problems with contemporary art in China and their strict censorship policy.  Yet it was Lisa le Feuvre whom I enjoyed listening to the most, and indeed who conveyed the most understanding, for me, in regards to Sindanao.  I took some notes:

We are in a crisis; we are shying away from the encounter, the experience.  We are claiming to know about art without going to directly experience ‘it’; the interplay between location, fiction and staging.  Even as artists: Can we present things we have worked with/on as fictions?  Are we too close?

Sindanao:  It is impossible to make head or tail of it.  All the points it directs you to are elsewhere, imported and later are again exported.  It raises questions of the beginning and the end of such fictions; at what point do we begin and stop acting.  Are we always performing?

The spectator makes the art, pulling out the meaning and putting their own stamp upon it, performing. When does an everyday object become a sculpture?  Art is embedded in everyday life – we cannot stop the performance.

Surplus Cameo Decor is entirely predicated on the encounter.  You cannot engage with it unless you spend time in it, become part of it, project yourself into it.  A phenomenological encounter…

Once can’t help but feel, and le Feuvre herself admitted, that she was deliberately dodging explicitly explaining Surplus Cameo Decor?  Or , perhaps, couldn’t explain it?

Non the less it was a most excellent week of curatorial experience and philosophical thought with some very interesting people.

The Hubs and Fictions forum then went on to take place at the Baltic, Gateshead and at Goldsmiths, London.


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