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Aesthetics and Curation // London, March 2019

The first of the exhibitions visited was the controversially reviewed, Is This Tomorrow? at Whitechapel. Whilst not all of the work completely resonated with me from a conceptual point, or aesthetic for that matter, the initial impression from a curatorial perspective was certainly a positive one. The exhibition was accompanied by a small pamphlet, as many are, however, each artwork was referred to be a subtle shape or pattern, seen in both booklet and a tile on the wall. Whilst this potentially became a bit confusing in regards to installations or three dimensional works which were set away from the wall and somewhat bundled together, the idea was a nice, professional touch which differed from that of many other exhibitions.

The first of the works that really inspired me throughout the day was the collaborative piece between Kapwani Kiwanga and Adjaye Associates, Sankofa Pavillion. Whilst I openly admit to not catching onto the conceptual element of the piece, and even after searching the title on the web only just gaining an understanding of the word Sankofa*, it was the material make-up and aesthetic of the piece that intrigued me most. The use of dichroic glass creates a space full of colour and a cross over between reflection and transparency creates the conversation of voyeurism and desirability. Whilst I don't think that this was the intention of the work, it proves to be a very Instagrammable space that almost borders the topics of vanity within todays society - it was commented that this space was meant to be an area for conversation and some element of the material was even meant to restrict certain wave lengths and sounds. However, a higher interest remained in photographing oneself and others in the space - has imagery become louder than words? Or is the conversation of our online popularity more important than the act of physical conversation between people? Or in fact, was it the aesthetic appeal of this work that was actually the element intended to remove sound - the quiet is a result of the self-indulgence people participate in whilst engaging with the structure? Whatever the concept is - I like it, and it has made me consider some alternative qualities for my own work. Sourcing the material however, might prove difficult.

Additionally in this exhibition featured a room filled with a pegboard, a table and a range of publications related to the show. The addition of publications that have been influential to our practice or concept is a feature we have discussed including in our own degree show. It allows for the show to have a more engaging element to it where visitors can slow down and gain a better understanding of the reasons behind the work. Also, it opens alternative perspectives on subjects that they perhaps have not previously considered. Alternatively, the pegboard was an aesthetic choice that appealed to me for the construction of the space I hope to build for our shows. It suggested a power of publications and the idea of giving a voice to the lesser heard, as visitors were encouraged to interact with the show by writing or drawing there responses and attaching them to the board. This idea of interactivity is an element I consider powerful as within the modern day, it is recognised that we maintain fairly short attention span and people are much more willing to reflect upon something if they can personally engage.

The next on the venture was the Jonathan Horowitz exhibition at Sadie Coles. The show commented upon the problems of modern culture, consumerism and inequality amongst race and gender. Horowitz was successful in using existing, recognisable imagery and found footage to communicate these themes, expressed most successfully through the layout and curation of the work. Whilst I thought all of the work had a simplicity around it, this was what made it powerful. The most poignant in the exhibition for me was the work, Hollywood Story V. XXV. MMXVIII. This video installation was set in a large, darkened area, with thick red velvet curtains lining the entrance to the space and behind the screen. Aesthetically (and contextually), it links back to the traditional aesthetic of a theatre. The red signifies the luxury of theatre, especially historically associated more with bourgeois. Furthermore, it has connotations of sexuality and the sensual - a further link to the context of the work as the piece explores the sexual allegations of Harvey Weinstein. The artist took a series of clear, traditional ideas and compacted them into one very successful and functional piece. Whilst it might not be the most obvious context initially (at least if you are not aware of the eighty-seven accusers of Harvey Weinstein), as soon as you read the short artist statement about it in the publication that accompanies the show it becomes blatantly obvious. Some may argue that they don't want to read about an artwork to understand it, but we cannot be expected to know about all of the themes that art revolves around as an individual. This was also a good opportunity for me to consider material choice for the curtains within my own space. Whilst I think the material choices perfectly suited the context of this work, it would not be appropriate for my own space. A material more reminiscent of a screen or digital filter is potentially more appropriate - something somewhat transparent to imply an idea of voyeurism, perhaps of a pink or red hue to give connotation to the ideas of cute and lust.

The day also allowed us to gain further insight into the display different artists chose for their varying mediums. A quick trip into the Pace Gallery meant a fleeting insight into the current exhibition, William Monk - A Fool Through the Cloud. One thing that I took from this exhibition was the subtleness of the framing; with all the paintings being on canvas, the artist chose to frame the works in exposed frames (no glass frontage), and consisted of a thin wooden frame, that covered the depth of each canvas precisely. This aesthetic decision didn't disrupt the painting and ensured that any potentially messy edges were hidden as to create a crisp perimeter for the imagery. Additionally, the Erwin Wurm exhibition at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac challenged the idea of human and artwork, both in a contextual manner and in the exhibiting decisions. In the downstairs of the gallery there was a series of large Polaroids capturing his One Minute Sculpture series. This process was something of the height of discussion throughout the afternoon as we attempted to fathom how these had been produced - they say they are Polaroids but simply exceed any imaginable size restriction for a Polaroid camera. Were they originally Polaroids that were blown up and screen printed? It would appear that a questionable chemical process was taking place around the edges of the images, causing a discoloration from the rest of the photo. However, in regards to displaying decisions, it was the upstairs of the gallery that proved most interesting. As you reached the top of the stairs you were greeted by an almost grand sitting room experience that had been turned on it's head. In the centre of the wall was a chair which almost looked as though it was made from plaster and as though part of the back cushion had been sat on in a way in which it would never recover. Next to it, a table, and a lamp with the lamp shade being a bucket. Behind the scene, an expanse of somewhat naïve drawings, although displayed in a way in which you would imagine to experience in the drawing room of a manor house. The whole area had a refined finish to it, yet a childish informality. Perhaps it was a straight up comment on humanity, how people think they are so refined, experienced, successful and so on however, we are all just bumbling about trying to make sense of this world similar to that as a child. Whatever it meant, it was powerful, enveloping. A bench sat opposite the work that encouraged visitors to sit for a moment and take in the tens or hundreds of drawings that lined the wall. It could be said, it made you feel at home. In the next room were displayed a series of Wurm's ceramics, however, contrasting traditional ideas of display, in search for another word, the plinths took on many forms including small cabinets, tables, foot stools etc. This approach gave the work a somewhat informal quality whilst still addressing it as art. It softened the experience of it whilst also encouraging the viewer to challenge these decisions. Similar to the previous set up, I feel it is to encourage the viewer to engage with the human quality of the works, removing the idea of prestige and reminding the audience that art isn't all about the bourgeois.


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