Here’s a rough sketch of what my contribution (in the physical gallery space) might look like when it opens at the MCA towards the end of next week. (My bit is the dark shaded bit).
In a bold and curious curatorial move, my work will be placed in the “resource room”. This room, at the top of the stairs on the third floor, is often used as a place for browsing books or watching documentaries: supplementary material about the exhibition, within the exhibition.
Here’s a sketch of the whole show, with the location of each artist’s work indicated by their name in black:
Several weeks ago, when Glenn first told me that I’d be in the resource room, I was a bit resistant – I thought that my Audit project should be allocated its own “legitimate” space within the show.
But since then, I’ve grown to like the idea of being in there with the supplementary info. Gallery visitors can snuggle into a couch, dive into a book, get their paws on this auxillary stuff which isn’t precious. (You should see the “exhibition copies” of the books and catalogues after a few months in the show – they get totally filthy and their spines crack apart from use).
So, in a way – as a project which operates as a reflection on the exhibition, but which is also a work within the exhibition, I think the resource room is just right for me.
During the run of the show (From August 20 to October 31), I’ll be delivering and pinning up one print per week in my resource-room home. I envisage that these prints (which I’ll be making on the Big Fag Press) will consist of the diagrams which have been evolving as I struggle to come to grips with all the inputs and outcomes of various aspects of the show (including my own processes).
So it’ll be one of those pieces that grows over the course of ten weeks, rather than being already complete at the time of the launch. (There is of course a tradition of this sort of thing. Continuous Project Altered Daily (1969) by Robert Morris, and Allan Kaprow’s Push and Pull (1964) are two of my faves amongst many).
The danger, of course, is that this kind of work might (quite rightly) seem a bit “empty” at the start of the show. For this reason, I’ve asked the MCA’s preparators to paint “my” walls with blackboard paint, which I will pin my prints onto. I can then chalk up further annotations surrounding each print, as well as info about the date and time that visitors might expect me to rock up and deliver the next print in the series.
I wasn’t sure what the MCA’s curatorial gang would think of this blackboard suggestion. However, they seem to like it (at least, they’ve “approved” it).
But this morning when I bailed up Glenn in the office he said “Yeah, it’s a good idea. But you can’t leave chalk in there”.
In other words, no chalk for visitors to use to write back to me.
Interlude: Just as I wrote these words, Glenn walked past my desk again. He pointed at the registration/conservation department, implicating them as the “baddies” in my chalk-ban. One of the problems with chalk in the gallery, of course, is that it can go walkabout (chalkabout?) and end up being used for mischief in more fragile artworks (thus rendering the chalk perilous from a conservation viewpoint).
How to get around this?
Artworks which are physically complete before the exhibition opens do not (within their own structures) allow gallery visitors to “speak back”. It’s a one-way communication. But a work like mine, which evolves during the time that the exhibition is live, can benefit from the wisdom (and suffer from the banality) of visitor talk-back. Of course, this can happen right here online through the blog. But chalking on a board is quite pleasurable, visceral, doesn’t require any technological savvy, you don’t need to construct full sentences, you can draw diagrams of your own, etc.
(It’s also a bit daggy. That’s a risk I’m quite happy to take.)
So the museum context, drawing thousands of visitors per week, is also precisely what makes it hard to do this kind of thing. What to do?