in my house 2 martin cody, joas nebe, michelle owoo, charlene clempson 15/2/20
I have always found it interesting to consider how group exhibitions are created and what is considered when people’s work is collected together and presented. Is there is an overarching theme attached that people have responded to, or have they been thrown together for convenience or sheer content. I have been a part of group shows that have carefully considered and responded to a theme. I have also been involved in a show where we grouped together simply because we couldn’t afford the space otherwise and we needed the numbers because the space was SO large and we needed to fill it. I can’t say one was better than the other, I think they were both successful in their own ways and each was an exciting learning process about how to facilitate a show.
Does art need to be related to another piece of art to warrant being shown in the same space? Sometimes there is a big convoluted reason, sometimes there just isn’t, sometimes there is a consideration but nothing too seriously or rigorously decided. To me, a group show can be a display of a gallery collection that a curator has handpicked to respond to a theme, it can be a group of students from the same uni course who decided to pool their money together and rent a space for a week and present whatever was sitting around in their studios that day or whatever they could carry on the train. It could be an exhibition comprised of competition winners who submitted to a gallery open call and happened to be able to afford the £50 submission fee. It can be an interim display of in-progress work from final year students or emerging artists to help them develop ideas and get feedback. Art can be grouped together for a myriad of reasons and that’s what has made it so interesting when picking artists for a group show for my In My House.
When curating the first group show of this project, I wanted to ensure that there wasn't any potent subject that tied these works together, though perhaps that is unavoidable given the premise of this project is a theme in itself. Space is an automatic consideration for most artist's practices. Where can I imagine this work being displayed? How would a space define or engage with my art?
Of course the identity of my house, an inhabited domestic space, is going to influence the art I present within it and vice versa. I considered just filling every room with something random, picking names out of a hat and leaving it at that. I think that could have been an interesting method to choose, but I felt that I could do something a bit more considered than that given the space is so unique and has character of its own.
I found myself drawn to presenting the work of four artists. (Martin Cody, Joas Nebe, Michelle Owoo and Charlene Clempson) These pieces were presented in their own stead in different rooms in the house, so could be received separately from each other anyway, but I found a subtlety in their contexts and their subject that complemented each other in some little way and felt it could be interesting to see how these works would look grouped in the same show.
I chose to present Martin Cody’s work in the dining room. The images were shown in the 6x4 sized frames you would commonly find dotted around a domestic space and fitted nicely on the side table in this room. On initial viewing, you could interpret the images as just raw snapshots of a family holiday, their small scale evoking a sense of nostalgia and intimacy. The images were accompanied by an explanatory text and link to a page detailing Allan Kaprow’s ‘Happening’ process which inspired the photographs and instructs the viewer on how to create their own happening. The static images were indicative of Cody’s interest in the artist and extend beyond an image or art object. A short excerpt from this link describes Kaprow’s process; “In Kaprow’s form of Happening, ordinary people, ordinary time and everyday spaces like streets, houses and shops, were frequently merged into ordinary activities such as wallpapering a room, digging ditches or taking a pulse. Fantasy was never absent, but there was always a commitment to shared or common experience. Art and life were blurred.” The description aligns well with Cody’s intention with his work. The photographs, though they exist as objects, are elevated beyond that with this added context and their presence in my house demonstrate that the lines between art and life are indeed blurred when the work exists in this ‘ordinary’ or ‘common’ space.
Joas Nebe’s ‘Landmark:Vogelhaus’ is a video installation work I thought was best placed in the living room. The living room is the hub of most houses. It’s where everyone convenes together at the end of the day to relax and sit in front of the tv and just engage or often disengage. It felt fitting to put this video here, considering its repetitive gif-like quality that can perhaps represent how often television can be repetitive. The recurring imagery was indicative of the process of migrating birds returning to a native place over and over again. There was an interesting correlation between the piece and its display in a domestic setting on a tv screen.
Michelle Owoo’s work was presented in the office. When I saw this submission I imagined the image being projected on a large overhead screen in an architect’s meeting room, with a group of people in suits discussing their innovative new design ‘project’ to bring the community together. I wanted to emulate that in a way. The piece is called ‘Tour Guide’ and presents a unique 'ideal' design, although the image is digitally constructed and so can only be visualized as a digital architecture and never physically realized. This work is defined by the concept of the found object (banana peel), so is presented as a constructed yet structurally unviable design that is obviously on a miniature scale. Using the image as a sort of screensaver image, it exists in the office space digitally but in an idle sense, perhaps suggesting the futility of creating the 'ideal' environment. I love the scale of it and I really enjoy its reference to exploring ideas of micro-tourism and inciting a purpose into a disposed-of object.
Charlene’s images were presented in the bedroom space. She shared 7 drawings on varying scales of objects carried in a suitcase during a residency in China, including a conditioner bottle, toothbrush and face wash. I also included her images in the en-suite connected to the bedroom to try and recreate her experience of living in Beijjing and the rooms she would have used these objects in. The frames were pre-existing in the en-suite space so I altered the scale of the drawings to fit into these. She describes these drawings as a graphic inventory. In her submission she spoke of her experience of completing this project and its connection with disapora; “In recording the objects that the suitcase contains the idea of ethnicity (groups) has another meaning - one that pertains to a larger form of grouping - to be human. The works produced were created during a residency in China - the suitcase contained what was necessary to produce work and live in Beijing for a month. One of the aims of the residency is to explore diaspora as an everyday concept. If diaspora/ or diasporic identities have commonly been theorized for Hall (2003 and 2000) and Gilroy (1991) as dealing with ‘roots and routes’ (rather than what is to hand), that is to say that history still connected the individual to prior geographical location/ ‘geographical mobility’ (Blunt 2007) and social individuals could not make their own history. Humans negotiate different spaces that differ from home or places that are possessed – I am intrigued with objects and ideas that are transportable…the suitcase is a mini version of home”
The inspiration that made me present these works together is that they possess a context of identity derived from or related to a location in some way, which I thought was very fitting idea to emphasize for this project. Owoo’s collaged image discussed micro-tourism and focussed on the unique qualities of a structure to invite exploration or ‘tourists’ into a community, whilst playing with this idea of the found object embedded in this constructed architecture. This can relate with Nebe’s looped video, where migrating birds are nesting and thriving within a city’s uninhabited spaces that are re-purposed as 'domestic' environments for the species. Clempson’s drawings are records of time spent travelling; the objects were possessions used during residency in China, and represent the things she used to feel 'at home' in the place she was staying for this period. Focusing on the analysis that home was transportable and came with her in the objects in her suitcase these drawings are a form of auto ethnography, and the idea that home is more than a physical dwelling. Cody’s photographs capture a snapshot of a leisurely trip to Encinitas, provoking feelings of nostalgia, whilst providing the viewer with a locational reference to Kaprow’s artistic influence over his own practice.
I realize my interpretations of this show aren’t infallible. I am intrigued to explore how others regard this exhibition and this grouping, and encourage readers to visit these artist’s websites (listed below) for more information. Thank you to the artists for allowing me to present your work.