Friday, April 23, 2010

47 Presents

Opening - Thursday April 22-25 2010
Performance - Monday April 26 2010
Finale - Tuesday April 27-30 2010

47’s Interns, the emerging curator Erin Trezise and artist Megan Blandford-Lewis, explore shadow as a mark-making medium while commenting on their roles as interns, in the three part exhibition In-Turn: Pushing Paper. Investigating memory and the ways in which traces of the self can be left behind, on purpose or unknowingly, Trezise and Blandford-Lewis play with the desire to record one's presence while using light.

“The viewer's participation plays a vital role in the evolution of this process-based exhibition. We want the viewer to consider the layers of 47 - the spatial changes of shows past and the human mark of working within the building. By exploring these layers we encourage viewer engage in the notion that this type of mark-making act is a valid documentation process in recalling each stratum of the space. We will create a process for remembrance, while acknowledging the fleeting nature of memory.

As we paper the walls we provide a base for shadow to become a body-made mark. The audience interaction in the space becomes paramount, and the walls of 47 become impressionable. This visual moment of the shadow represents a memory and provides physical evidence of the viewer, albeit temporary.

During the second stage we will methodically transform the drawing paper into filed documents, creating the final piece of the exhibition, our version of the show catalogue. The 263 files represent the number of days we have been Interns at 47. Their objectivity plays with notion of the intern. As our role in the gallery is somewhat behind the scenes, the undoing of the paper is an important act to be seen.

Remnants of the engaged viewer and our own labour remains within the space memory of the created pages and the sounds and voices which will fill the space in the third and last stage. The shadows of the opening install are remembered, but perhaps more so filed away than recorded within our catalogue.”

This nine day exhibition allows the interns to crawl out from behind the scenes and take their turn in the spotlight.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Don't complain, don't explain

I have been reading about Marina Abramović and her performance based retrospective The Artist is Present, at MoMA. Watch a live feed here of a new original piece she performs now until May 31.

© 2010 Marina Abramović
Courtesy the artist and Sean Kelly Gallery / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Photo by Scott Rudd

And I was reminded of Lernert and Sander's video How To Explain It To My Parents, 90.

Participating artist Arno Coenen.

Not implying that How To Explain It To My Parents, 90 is necessarily a strong comparison to The Artist is Present, but the aesthetic is strikingly similar and the camera plays a strange yet somewhat secondary role in both. As well, both pieces consider the need to define or resolve one's work, in contrast to remaining tight lipped. For myself this is a an ever present question, especially while tackling the double roles of artist/curator (re- me). As artist I want my work to speak volumes, but as curator I am creating a show, maybe needing a narative of sorts. Alligning both desires is the hard part.

Perhaps Abramović's silent perch underscores the simple need for contemplation in a gallery space. Or, that before begging for answers about performance based art, a deliberate internal moment might reveal explanation enough. While her performances are generally silent in nature and unfocused on persona, for this one in particular she readily places herself in the Artist role. She leaves an opening (with the literal seat) for the viewer in order to cultivate a relationship, and uses a normative table setting as the stage.
But it is with the video component, where the live feed creates a second slightly separate layer, that I am intrigued. The documentation process becomes the channel for viewership, so while it is real time, the viewer is often in fact not present at all. The relationship now has three perspectives, artist, viewer and gaze. The silence between all parties allows for attention to be paid on the body and the emotional presence, or lack of, of the artist. Is it narcissistic? Somewhat. But Abramović's haunting stare is unapologetic (and one would imagine strangely exhausting).

But with silence comes questions. And to me the heart of most conceptual art is the need for a discussion to be born of the piece. Statements and explanations become necessary, and people expect to know inspirations and musings. It seems that Lernert and Sander simply exploit the offshoot dialogue of Arno Coenen's original Eurotrash Brewery Project. I see the conversation as something of an aftershock effect from the initial work, and the film series comes across purely documentary in nature. None the less intimate and engaging, Lernert and Sander provide a controlled environment for thoughtful interaction to occur. How To Explain It To My Parents, 90 seems more stagnant though, as the art being discussed has past, and I the viewer have limited access to it other than what is being spoken of. This is the fundamental issue of performance gone past.

As Abramović's retrospective tackles this question she re-stages personal past works with stand-in performers, mirroring her own re-staging of other artist works (Seven Easy Pieces, November 2005). In interviews she states that re-staging is worth the danger of mixing personalities, as without it there are only photographs and film, which are dead. Abramović believes that perhaps the best documentation for her work is just the memory of the audience. It seems that the memories and the experience of the viewer provides enough explanation for her work.

Someone once gave me the advice, don't complain, don't explain. As artist, to explain one's art seems less valuable than to activate one's art, but dialogue does not necessarily need to be excluded. And as viewer, sure, have beef with art you don't understand, but to hold claim on an explanation is another thing altogether.

Dear Marina,
You seem to have caught the ephemeral. I like it.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

My Turn

Most of my Saturdays at 47 begin by schlepping in some chopped wood from the yard. Nestled in the corner gallery office I start a fire in our woodburning stove. Sometimes Dennis, one of 47s directors, will already have it going for me, but today I am alone. Now sitting next to the silent flames and ready to write, my hands are dirty, soot covers my pale pink nails. Not exactly the gallerina image some might imagine. In the same thought, 47 isnt' exactly what you might imagine as a gallery either.

Prompted by our quickly approaching and aptly titled show In Turn, as well as a few tiny jabs from ArtListPro, it seems that my job title at 47 (intern) holds more (or less, as implied by ALP) than orginally thought. While his posts are now a month old, and he has since addressed many of the general qualms I initially had, I am more focused on his dismissive view of various gallery staff. With our intern show just two weeks away and almost a year as a gallery intern under my belt, I am caught between looking forward and backward as I contemplate my role.

Starting last spring in the Distillery and happily moving West to Parkdale, I have spent just about every Saturday since behind a desk at a gallery, and I really couldn't be happier. And yet ALP implies in #7 of his list of Important Life Changes, that he would rather be anything but an intern, and will work hard to avoid such a fate. And again in #5 of his semi recant-posting on 47 (man this guy likes numbered lists) he slags the intern again, dismissing them as viable connections in the gallery staff. I don't take these comments personally, as I have never infact met Chris Healey, so I assume these are generalizations. But while he explains his writing style is 'classic blog writing', the few times he mentions interns I sense little irony or comedy. Why such an attitude against those at the bottom, especially when you place yourself within similar status? Shouldn't the little people try to applaud one another? This is partly why I still feel it relevant to discuss the posts, from one independant blogger to another.
(Sidebar - the fact that 47 allows us to slap their name onto our intern blog seems pretty clear to me that they too support independant writers, and encourage a dialogue between the public and the gallery. Just my two cents.)

So ALP I thought I might try to explain why I am not such a nuisance for you. Aside from building fires, my main task on Saturdays is to man the gallery alone. Which means I must entice and interest each viewer who finds us down the alley and happens upon our stoop. Street traffic being light, for me each visitor is an opportunity to talk some art, or just shoot the breeze. As ALP wallows, he states that he has become 'someone the intern is supposed to deal with' (implying that the unimportant are carted off to the lowly interns). Does ALP not trust that 47s directors, and assumably all galleries, would not employ staff with whom they do not feel best represents their mandate and their artists, and in reality, themselves?

Between the two galleries I have been employed at, my responsibilities have waxed and waned, but in general the overarching principle remains - the effort I put out is the fuel for my progression, and this progression is as personal as it gets, I am not compensated with money, this is my time which I invest. And from effort sometimes comes reward, so alongside people who are rooting for you to succed comes relationships and connections and hey, my own exhibition. 47 offered up this opportunity to us interns months ago, offering too their trust in our capabilities. Internships are meant to end, they are purposed with an in-between nature, and by that end they are the sum total of an individuals evolution. So if I learned anything from ALP's long winded whinging (props to fellow British intern who taught me this slang), it was his final sentence, about growing up and rethinking.

Dear ALP,
Come chat with me about art? We can sit by the fire that I made. Us interns, we are an industrious bunch when we really get our act together.