Thursday, 8 October 2009
... from Nele Tas.
I have to say I find it quite hard to evaluate this project, because once written down words look a bit like a definite opinion, a ‘final judgment’ about Temporary City, while maybe this whole project - for me at least - has a great deal to do with leaving possibilities open. But since we dared to tackle the curator/artist relation, we should indeed also venture to reflect on the exhibition as if being our own art critics. I’ll give it a try!
1. Is Temporary City a good exhibition? Yes, I certainly think it is. The quality of the works may differ, and it goes without saying that I like some works better than others, but as a whole I value the exhibition for its liveliness and for its attempt to physically link the diverse works with each other. As it is the case with many contemporary music and literature, here as well, it is probably helpful to have a background in the arts and to have some experience in visiting exhibitions to appreciate this group show. But I believe the exhibition as a whole and the artworks individually are ‘readable’ for anyone taking some time and putting some effort in visiting it. The aim of the project is to make a good exhibition in mutual consultation and certainly not only to make an exhibition reflecting its own position of being an alternative to ‘curator exhibitions’. Although I clearly see the possibilities of interpreting this project on a meta-level, I certainly prefer not to interpret it exclusively in this way.
2. Do the works of art have retained their ‘original’ meaning? This question is somehow a bit misleading for some of the works present in the exhibition. It makes a division between an ‘original’ meaning and ‘another’ meaning. It is an odd distinction regarding the practice of Stijn and Nicolas whose works are inextricably connected to the exhibition architecture and even find their origin in the existence of it. Personally I believe the ‘meaning’ of a work is constantly in change and consists not only of the intention of the maker, but of the viewer as well and depends on the time in which a work is made and shown. Each work of art therefore, has a personal history of contexts that determines the meaning of it. In this sense I think, a work participating in the context of Temporary City can only gain meaning.
The exhibition architecture therefore was not only a platform to bring all the works together, but does make it possible as well to read the exhibition in more than one way. It triggers the interpretation spectrum. For instance, 1) it could be interpreted as a work of art in itself, 2) it establishes the link with the city of Berlin, in which blue tubes run trough the city all over, or 3) parallel to the design of a city, this structure creates space, makes ‘rooms’, separates ‘districts’ and opens the possibility to compare this exhibition with a ‘real’ city. At the same time the work of Andreas had a social function as well: it united the artists! Often the atmosphere was: “We, against the blue structure… attack!” It was helpful and a nightmare. But it certainly made the exhibition (and the possible interpretation) richer. Maybe the question meant here is whether all the works could hold up ‘against’ the structure, which was a strong statement in itself. I think we have to admit that we did not find the right solution for every single work. Some works got a bit lost in the structure, or did not find the right place, or could not keep up with the presence of the overwhelming colour. As if we only took care of the primary quality of the work, the form, but not of its secondary quality, the colour. But these uncomfortable solutions, I believe, were mainly kept due to the lack of time. (So, “if we would have had more time…”)
3. The process is the way in which everything went and the time needed to come to this exhibition, mentally as well as physically. It’s about ‘Arbeit’. Hours of discussion, consultation, consideration, dialogue and approval. But also: sawing, drilling, nailing, cutting, painting, testing (and sweating). It has nothing to do with ‘meaning’, but with ‘doing’. Is the process visible in the exhibition? It is inextricable connected to it: every smallest thing in the exhibition is discussed about and made during the process. Nowadays ‘making the process visible’ is often an accepted way of ‘making art’ as well. The artist tries to be honest with the public by leaving former traces of experiments at view, by not hiding them in the end result. During the building up week of Temporary City we also discussed about whether it would be useful to document the different steps we took, to somehow integrate them in the exhibition. In the end nothing happened with this idea, but this doesn’t mean that there was no process or that it was not valuable.
1.“You are no fundamentalists”, Christophe Tannert said while visiting us during the building up week. Personally I liked this remark a lot. There is no imperative, no imposed ‘theoretical frame’, or a hidden agenda behind Temporary City. As every meal tastes different with the changing of its ingredients, this project differs through its participants. They are the ones giving direction to the whole. Whether it is implicitly or explicitly; every artist has an idea of what is the best way to show his or her work. This ‘curator-like property’ is present in everyone. And a project as this challenges this aspect of the artist. But in the same time it doesn’t make curators of us; the difference is we have to clarify and defend our position – a curator would just decide. Still, in the most ideal situation, having the perfect circumstances concerning time and money, everybody should be happy with the way his or her work is shown: the artist was there when decided about! Having no theme at all, presenting just a way of working, Temporary City may seem an ‘empty’ project. For some, this so-called ‘emptiness’ may be a weakness, but I want to see it as a strength. Let me explain. I am very much aware of the fact that the ‘concept’ behind Temporary City is very fragile, and precisely because it does not relate to a concrete content, but instead tries to look for a ‘receipt of exhibiting’, for a way of working namely that wants to keep as long as possible an ‘openness’ concerning all the decisions that have to be made. A way of working in which we attempt to exclude bureaucracy, cold decisions from above and in which we try to permit a complete independence to all the participants of the project. The fascinating and essential aspect of the concept Temporary City (so, as far as you can call it a ‘concept’) is that it can never be pinned down once and for all. There is no definite definition: there are as many views on the project as there are participants. How intangible and frail the concept may be, it does lead us to a very vivid exhibition since this last one just then takes its concrete shape through the commitment of and the negotiations between the artists. I’m also very much aware that this way of working implies a gigantic risk: “Het is erop of eronder!”. But to me, this risk as well is a substantial component of the project. It’s a fragile thing indeed... And of course it would be possible to work around a specific theme. But somehow, in this project, it would feel a bit like a diversion. The theme could become something like a lightning protector: it would re-route the discussions, away from tensions in the group. Because in the end, this project could be seen as a ‘social experiment’ amongst artists as well.
2. In the first Temporary City, we did not have any exhibition architecture. So, everybody just started to look for the best place to show his or her work. There was, in fact, not so much difference with any other group exhibition. This we wanted to avoid. As said above, the spatial structure of Andreas Müller had a social function, and was as well some sort of ‘glue’ for al those diverse works. But I don’t think it is indispensable for the success of the project. As for example Paul suggested, we could have had as well a set of rules, or an imaginary spatial structure to start working from. It does not necessarily have to be materialized. But I am convinced that something to bring all those works, and all those artists together is very important.
3. Just look and you’ll enjoy!