This post will cover the explore section of the brief. The task goes as follows:
The (minimum of) 3 reports must consist of either: reporting back on an exhibiton we’ve visited or reporting on an exhibition the author/exhibitioner of which we have interviewed/have read an interview on. One of the reports must be on an international exhibition and another one must be one that we personally had visited.
- (mandatory) Covered an international exhibition ✓ (2,3)
- (mandatory) Covered an exhibition I have visited ✓ (1)
- (optional) Covered an exhibition the author/host of which I had interviewed/read an interview online. ✓ (2)
For my first report, I’ve decided to go for a primary research report on the Grayson’s Art Club exhibition here in Bristol as it is one of few exhibitions that I have visited personally and remember well enough to write out a proper report.
My first experience with Grayson’s Art Club was in January of this year, a friend of mine had went to the exhibition a week prior and said that it was worth visiting, especially since a lot of the submissions that had been displayed came from UWE students, both current and former. Looking into it, I found that Grayson Perry and his wife – Philippa Perry created the art club as an extension of their passion for art, they wanted to encourage artists around the country to create and share their creations with the world. The art club was first established in 2020 and has received over 17000 submissions in their first year of running with the number growing at a reasonably fast pace.
My favourite technical aspect of the exhibition was how everything was displayed and laid out around the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery. Instead of having a single designated area for displaying the submissions they had picked out of the bunch they’d received, they were given 3 larger areas (all of which were mapped out on a pamphlet that was given to me upon entering the museum) around the museum, one per floor, to fill with work. Each area was dedicated to the works that were in response to a specific brief/specific briefs that were given for submissions. The Ground floor area featured pieces that were in response to the “Work” brief, first floor – Dreams and Travel, while the second floor area had works about family, nature and food. As an addition, because they had received some submissions that either did not necessarily meet the briefs but they felt deserved attention regardless of it or fit another area that could have used a new artefact or two, they ended up featuring those pieces alongside other historical artefacts, the only thing separating them was the labeled plaque provided alongside the Art Club submission artefact, or, at times, would look so incredibly out of place that you could tell it’s an artefact provided by Grayson Perry’s Art Club.
I feel as though incorporating more contemporary pieces alongside traditional art is a genius approach to richening the museum exploration experience while also doubling as a great platform for small and up-and-coming artists. I had the pleasure of talking to one of the volunteers working at one of the designated Art Club areas and was told that the application/submission process is very simple and accessible to anyone wishing to participate.
I found the structuring, layout and variety to be the key features of this exhibition, which is what I assume the main goal of the Art Club was. In my eyes, a perfect example of a successful open-to-general-public exhibition in modern times.
The second report is based on a sort-of-exhibition put up by an artist that had expressed their wishes to remain anonymous. Based on an article by WebUrbanist, I have been able to make up a report on the very peculiar sculptural installations beneath Paris.
The artist, who asked to be referred to as EZ, has installed these almost monumental structures in the underground tunnels of Paris, France. While not official art installations, word of these has encouraged a curious few to seek them out, therefore, I don’t see why one wouldn’t deem it as an art exhibition – a pop-up of sorts. When asked to describe the meaning behind his work, the artist said:
The secretive nature of the process is a fitting complement to the work itself, which often evokes images of camps for refugees and the homeless. Accessed and utilized without permission, these often wasted spaces are temporary homes to surreal architectural creations, if not to the humans who could actually use them.EZ
I find the vigilantistic, righteous and daring approach behind the process of installing these structures to be admirable and intriguing. I believe that it being done illegally does not take away from the message or the cause, if anything, it only adds to it. It’s a well thought out and well crafted exhibition with multiple layers of meaning and creative integrity. However, it’s important to note that such approaches do come with severe consequences, from being escorted from the tunnels, to being put in jail, the artist has had his fair share of troubles with law enforcement. Legality of processes, regardless of how moral the cause/the idea, should always be accounted for if getting in legal trouble is not on one’s bucket list. Although, in this case, I stand by the artist’s message and approach of carrying out his concept.
This exhibition is surely a twist on the classic format, I find its meaningfulness, elusiveness and openness to anyone willing to find it incredibly fascinating.
The third report is on a piece titled “Pillar of Shame”, a sculpture that has sprung up from the ground in a few countries around the world. They memorialize the deaths caused by specific historical circumstances, each location having a different reason as to why the pillar of shame appeared there.
Created by Danish artist Jens Galschiøt, the Pillar of Shame is a sculpture made with cement, copper and bronze that is meant to represent the lives that have been lost due to unfortunate, often grim, historical circumstances that were awfully fatal.
The first sculpture was inaugurated at the NGO Forum of the FAO summit in Rome in 1996. Since then three other pillars have been erected, in Hong Kong, Mexico, and Brazil. A fifth in Berlin was planned for completion in 2002, but the plan has not come to fruition due to various issues.Wikipedia
The pillars, with their direct portrayal of the grim reality and critique on government, unsurprisingly were met with a lot of criticism and controversy from the general public as well as government officials, so much so that the one in Hong Kong, representing the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, ended up being taken down.
This puts forward the issue of commenting on sensitive topics and how that possibly could affect the perception and the handling of one’s exhibition, as well as even one’s safety (the artist having to need security for entering the countries/cities in which she had erected the statues). Censorship, be it past, present or future, should always be considered and handled with extra care, especially when it’s to be set up in a public forum/area. However, yet again, in this case, I agree with the motives and morals of the artist – the Pillar of shame works as an ugly reminder of the cruelty of human kind, having it displayed in its full glory is important for the sake of a better future in which events that were the reason of creating these sculptures in the first place do not transpire again.
The controversy surrounding its availability to the general public, its critique on history and the attempt to reclaim it are all intriguing approaches to exhibition curating.
The highlighted bits are the key points that I’ve taken away from researching each piece, I wish to incorporate at least of these qualities into our group exhibition project.