Semester 2 : Week 1 – Institutions & Practices

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This is a module about curation in the gallery, in publications and online. It is run by the curator of The Glucksman Gallery in Cork, the very personable Chris Clarke. We have the option of not doing this module and writing a longer paper which I am electing to do because all the discussion wears me out and does nothing for me. However I am allowed to audit the course, that is attend with no onus to do the assessment which is great as I hate to miss anything. There will be a lot of discussion but as we will be broken into smaller groups it will be a little easier.

After and introduction to the module and a review of some shows we were asked to work out what the theme was for a show called United Technologies which was curated in Lismore Castle in Co. Waterford in 2009. The Castle was built by Henry II, owned by Walter Raleigh and is now owned by the Devonshire’s who were connected to Nazi-ism through two members of the Mitford Family. The gardens are lush and one owner Richard Boyle, Earl of Cork who bought it from Raleigh, stocked a deer park in the grounds, fish ponds as well as maintained lush gardens.

lismore
Lismore Castle.

The curator of ‘United Technologies’, Philippe Pirotte (Director of the Kunsthalle Bern in Switzerland),  chose the work of five artists – Stefan Brüggemann, Rita McBride, Corey McCorkle, Jason Rhoades and Ai Weiwei – that respond to the castle’s loaded history. Of course we didn’t know that at first and when we were asked to figure out a them I realsied I had no idea. However I sat down with three classmates and within five minutes or so we got the bones of some theories.

Bruggemans silver wallpaper printed with its title, Conceptual Decoration, makes reference to the castles decorative past and its aristocratic owners. Rita MacBride’s Wall, made of old billboard paper seems to hint at capitalism and the advertising that keeps its wheels turning as well as being a work that is masquerading as something it is not-a wall obviously. Corey McCorkle’ss walking sticks, carved and embossed with gold are intended to be taken out into the gardens, connecting the gallery with the surroundings, once the playground of the rich. McCorkle also used the dandelions that have invaded the gardens to make wine, a reference to natural resources and also the passing of one power structure for another.  Jason Rhoades Sutter’s Mill made of scaffolding is once again pretending to be something it is not, a house made out of a temporary support system and reminiscent of stilt houses found in some third world parts of Asia. Everything is temporary perhaps and also not what it seems. Ai Wei Weis Oil Spills are actually made of ceramic, again something that appears to be something else in the way capitalism is power masked as progress. Ai Wei Wei’s, huge block of tea, One Ton of Tea also refers to the colonial past, the use of natural resources, trade and expansionism. It is uncrated and, like Rhoades Sutter’s Mill, speaks of something turned inside out. Henry I,I one of the great Plantagenet kings also hovers in the background, another progressive leader but also a rapacious war lord and territory junkie. And the title?Well United Technologies struck me as being akin to an upbeat advertising slogan, something that promises more than it gives. It speaks again of progress and togetherness when in fact the colonial past of the venue plays host to ghosts  which would tell you different. United these works are not, al least not on the surface, nor are the power-hungry united with the poor. jason rhoades

I couldn’t figure out where the Nazis fit in-apart from the expansionism that is-but I jokingly suggested the show was arranged in the shape of a Swastika…not sure how that went down…

As it turned out we did not come up with anything particularly neat, just shades of ideas and themes, which apparently was more or less in the ball park. Chris suggested that the show had in fact been overloaded with meaning.

I really enjoyed this session and was very pleased to go from not having a bog about it to parsing out a number of different strands. Also it was great to work with my classmates like this. They all wrote things down for me too. And I was reminded what a smart crew I am a part of.

The show itself though did not look like my cup of…tea (ahem), though it is never good to judge from photographs. Still, the gallery, the space, overwhelms the work, it is an art exhibition, all nice and tidy (even the oil is tidy!) and everything placed just so. I want to mess it up!

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Ai Wei Wei, One Ton of Tea. Image The Arnofilini Gallery Bristol, [online], available at https://www.arnolfini.org.uk/people/ai-weiwei, [accessed 23/05/2014].
Further Reading

Higgie, Jennifer, United Technologies, in Frieze Magazine,  [online], September 1st, 2009 available at https://frieze.com/article/united-technologies [accessed 23/05/2018].

Veal, Clare, Bringing The Land Foundation Back to Earth: a new model for the critical analysis of relational art, 2014 in Journal of Aesthetics & Culture, 6:1, 23701, DOI: 10.3402/
jac.v6.23701 [online], available at https://doi.org/10.3402/jac.v6.23701 [accessed
23/05/2018].

 

 

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