in my house 4 theantima 17/5/20
I am seeing a lot of new Instagram accounts pop up recently. Open calls for artwork that is about or responds to a room in a house, encouraging artists to put their own work up in their homes and sharing that because that’s about all artists can do right now with their finished pieces. With everything going on, I feel it’s very easy for my project to fall within the category of the online show as a compromise. Something initiated because I can’t display anything physically at the moment. Many galleries and art institutions are transforming into digital spaces as their engagement online is currently the only way of communicating with an audience. There are also a number of artist events, talks and workshops that have been transferred onto the internet.
One thing I want to stress about my project however is that it isn’t an alternative to a physical show. Its basic premise is that I want to explore the alternative exhibition, how staged exhibition spaces can exist online and how digitized shows are perceived by an audience. I would be naïve if I didn’t say that obviously presenting work in my home is incredibly convenient though, and of course that is why there is an abundance of new house-based projects emerging at the moment.
Although online space is inevitably quite reductive and restrictive, and a large part of the impact is lost because it becomes easily assimilated. The things we see on the internet are easy to scroll past or ignore or just be ambivalent towards because it’s another image to consume for a second and move on to the next. Sheer quantity can get a bit overwhelming at some point and how do we keep a viewer’s attention via a screen?
Working with The AntiMA members for In My House 4, I was aware that I didn’t want this show to be reductive or a compromise to an IRL exhibition. These artists are working with me because the current and future exhibitions they had planned in physical spaces were cancelled. Whether they see this project as a downgrade or a compromise is not really in my control, but all the same presenting work for this project was an opportunity to explore a different way of working, an alternative method of presentation. We are all making adjustments to our way of working right now and some of the artist’s works were a response to lockdown and being stuck at home and some were simply a way to reimagine an old piece in a new space.
One challenge about working with artists for In My House is the risk of each piece/its display looking a bit similar. This is the fourth show, and i need to retain a sense of innovation somehow. One of the advantages of a white cube space is that it has no identity. It can become anything. But presenting different work in the same room in a house over and over can run this risk of becoming a bit lackluster and 'samey'. Ten artists with ten artworks is also a lot of work to display in a house. And some repetition is quite unavoidable. I have limited equipment that I have to re-use when installing each piece and my challenge, particularly with group shows, is making sure my curatorial choices aren’t just out of convenience or limitation. Having 6 projections for example was challenging. Yes I can project into different spaces, and the works will diversify themselves because they are visually and conceptually different, but again there's only so many ways to project into a bathroom or living room. I say this as though it’s a disadvantage but it’s one of the reasons I wanted to experiment with domestic space. To combat this issue i wanted to consider surface as an important factor. Just projecting onto a wall could work for some of the pieces, but doing it for every one would have just been a bit lazy.
For example, Julie’s painting worked really well being projected onto a closed door because the piece’s context was so rich and required a more complex display. Having projected painting for the last show, I knew how important suggesting a level of texture was, either from simply choosing the space wisely, or playing with surface and also scale. The original image didn’t fit the door, so I stretched the image to fit it so the image and surface were more homogenous.
Yang-En’s work was projected into the corner of the garage, per her initial suggestions regarding the interesting textures it might create. And her display idea was definitely visually astute. The neutral brick interrupting half of the image brought out a pinkish colour of the fabric within the documented image, the rectangular brick mimicking the similar shape of the printed images on the fabric but contrasting to the curves of the way the piece hung suggested themes of construction and architecture. The choice to use projection came from the medium’s ability to add another layer of documentation. Displaying an image that was essentially a documentation of a finished piece in a gallery space was indicative of Yang-en’s artistic process of using processes to add a history to the work. There were so many facets to how this image was created and then got to my house. Yang-en talks about how within her practice, each duplication or replication of an image is degenerative, more information is lost with each recreation, and the projected display added yet another layer to the process of this piece. A history is created or perhaps lost depending on how you look at it.
Anthony’s photography and poetry were very emotive. The pieces came from a place of vulnerability and this was important for me to convey. The bedroom is a safe space for many, but it can also be a place where our vulnerable selves escape and our thoughts are allowed to run free, however helpful or intrusive they might be. I found out after installing that the masked figure was in fact Anthony. And I think that was a strong visual image that aligns with the poem quite well. The focus on monsters and demons, and how the connotations of these words can be applied to any situation. Projection is utilized here to focus on the impalpable quality of the artwork’s context, the space being more integral than the surface in this instance. The image’s title ‘Fighting Against the Dark’, suggests the action of fighting against things that aren’t necessarily physical, and the combination of image and text presented together created a bridging between the physical and non-physical influences of the work.
With Arabel’s piece, I was aware that using a toilet in art can become quite Duchamp-y. I wanted to avoid any relation to the readymade object, as I felt this piece had more narrative than the toilet as a functional thing. With her practice rooted in the encounters we have with spaces, it made me consider the things we do in bathrooms: wash our hands, typical bodily functions, crying, vomiting, taking 5 minutes away from the kids, checking our makeup or hair is good before we leave for work etc etc. Arabel used photography to document and emotionally process her experience of going through an eating disorder. She used the image of a toilet and bathroom to create a sense of distance. With images we can press pause and look a little bit more, notice more details that we didn’t initially see before by just looking. Projecting an image of a toilet onto a toilet created a duality of the object, and the distortion of the image incited an interesting narrative texture that blended together space and experienced encounters with spaces.
With Rosie’s potato photographs, she transforms an ordinary mundane object into something more interesting. At one point I did debate printing them off and sticking them in the existing photo frames in the kitchen, but I think it would have made them too physical. I like their ethereal quality as illustrative projected images, they become more scientific and ambiguous. I kept the kitchen dark because it helped keep the projection visible, but I liked the coincidental fact that potatoes thrive and grow in dark places, even in your kitchen cupboards if you forget about them for long enough.
Charlotte’s video work would have worked incredibly as a large-scale wall to wall installation piece (had I had the ability to realize this) It reminded me of Pippilotti Rist, and its sound and highly saturated imagery was so enthralling and immersive. The power of the visual image and its development; watching the sun crawl its way up through into the sky provokes a sublime feeling. I projected it onto a closed blind to keep its scale relatively intimate, and attempted to recreate the perspective I would normally see from this window. The video is quite paradoxical to me. The video depicts a sunrise but the colours are reminiscent of a sunset, the almost infrared colour palette reminds me of the cyclical nature of the day, and the rhythmic activity of opening and closing a blind or curtain based on the position of the celestial object.
Along with projection, screens are also abundant within this show and essentially this entire project. For this instalment, if it wasn’t a projection it was on a screen. Screens maybe have more versatility than projection but again I wanted to ensure each work and its given location had more substance than just plonking in on a digital device.
Grace’s work was about shame, and bodily gestures suggesting emotions associated with shame. Being able to display these small fragments of the body clearly was definitely challenging, as the cropped videos were so small and the gestures so subtle. Using multiple screens and devices of varying sizes allowed me to further displace and isolate each body part. By giving each piece a room or space of its own, the gestures were able to be exaggerated. I also considered places where one might experience shame. Shame can be felt in any location, but some of the places I think might be notable in the home are the bedroom, the bathroom, sat at the computer, on our phones. Shame has so many manifestations and given the audio overlay depicting a number of people’s varying experiences where they felt shame, I wanted to show the diversity of the emotion using different screens.
With Stephanie not being used to displaying her work in an exhibition context, she shared her process rather than a finished piece. Using video to show herself layering different types of wool whilst she listens to relaxing music was such a great insight into how her art work is made. It is not often you see the artists process; you only really ever see the finished piece in an exhibition context, and it was exciting to display this part of her work in progress that is very much methodical and physically involved. I asked her to send me an audio of her talking about her work to put with the video. I wanted her to speak as if she were teaching a workshop, as that is as much a part of her practice as making her pieces. Displaying the work on an ipad in the dining room invited a sense of accessibility; the viewer can move this device around the space, the work is portable. The dining room in my house is used as more of a craft table than an eating space, which is why I put the piece there. With Stephanie being currently unable to teach workshops, through this method of display she is still able to share her skill and artistic process with an audience in any space available.
Patrick used zoom to record an interpretative dance performance piece with his son and a mutual friend. This experience would have been performed live pre-lockdown so it felt fitting to keep it on a device that everyone is using currently to keep connected. I wanted to keep Patrick’s work very authentic in its delivery. The computer screen is our new meeting place.
Zoe’s work was also a response to our current experience. Her work focusses on tv and advertisements as a major visual thing we all consume on a daily basis, highlighting the misleading or biased messages we see that have only been increased due to us all being inside. The living room is where people convene together, tv or not, and is arguably one of the most social places of a domestic space. The tv screen in this place is then by default the most watched screen in the house. It is where the most digital consumption happens. The screen in this setting is used as a hypnotic device. Seeing the adverts played repeatedly one after the other is supposed to give the effect of irking viewers. Adverts are often meant to be eye catching, something someone watches and then wants to consume, but they can also be annoyingly aggressive. The Go Compare adverts, the Cilit Bang guy shouting at you, the classic teleshopping. Zoe’s adverts gave off this vibe very much, parodical, satirical and dramatic. But then she also gives more a serious public information message, very indicative of what’s on the tv right now. First you see a crazy advert about a flash mop, and then you see children in Africa with pneumonia and you are being asked to donate. It’s all crazily constructed and shifts from one extreme to the other.
Working with The AntiMA has been a great experience and gave me a great opportunity to experiment with a number of different practices within one exhibition, and allowed me really explore and stretch the capabilities of my house as an artistic space. Thank you to them.