Writing Exhibitions was a two day event at the Stanley Picker Gallery in Kingston-Upon-Thames, on November 28 2009, exploring connections of language and exhibition making… For this event I curated a series of micro-exhibitions by artists and groups not present in the space – Jonathan Keats, Alexander Hetherington, and CONT3XT. NET.
Each was a different act of translation: Keats’ Experience Exchange was a participatory work originally designed for the commercial arena of the Berlin Art Fair; Hetherington’s A Million Lies; Once and Only Revealed After Death (Triangle of Need) involved adapting a large scale multi-screen performance installation for the spatial, temporal, technological and budgetary restrictions of the Writing Exhibitions event.
The project with CONT3XT sought to to create a new version of their exhibition You Own Me Now Until You Forget About Me.
The process was as follows: out of our email exchange I developed a curatorial script, in which the exhibition (originally a group show at the Museum of Modern Art Ljublana, 16 May- 22 Jun 2008) became adapted as a 20 minute intervention in the 7.9 Cubic Metres space.
None of the original artists, art works, or curators were present in this new version, which, of course, raised many questions about where and in what form the original exhibition was present. Many of these questions, as the email dialogue explored, were ones CONT3XT.NET had themselves faced in exploring the role of a physical exhibition for digital and/or web based art works.
Like any script, the eventual performance was somewhat different to what I intended. In the essay I try to explore some of the reasons for this, and offer some proposals about the role of script making in a curatorial process as it relates to (a) the materials of an exhibition, (b) the nature of the script; (c) the physical experience of the exhibition, and (d) its aftermath, legacy and memory. Regarding the script itself, the process led me to propose the following:
Once the exhibition is reduced to a set of materials, then the script becomes the architecture for those materials and a set of proposals concerning the relations between them. The script is a fantasy of relationality, its coercive intent a way of articulating often hidden power relations in the process of exhibition making.
The script has a range of possible relations to what is realized. It may be a closely followed set of actions, or something valuable for its contrast to what results; private working document or exhibited object. It may be adapted and changed at the last moment in response to changing circumstances, or be erased by the paradigm shift of the exhibition itself. As here, the exhibition is likely to necessitate the script’s re-writing.
Of course, the essay itself becomes one further version of the exhibition. For this reason, I did not want to illustrate the essay with photo documentation of the event itself. I use an image of the empty cube, a drawing of the event (by Hyun Jin Cho, who produced a drawing of/for each micro-exhibition), and a series of black squares bearing the words “PHOTO DOCUMENTATION REMOVED.”
This explores what about the experience becomes communciated more broadly (as the exhibition is translated from form to form), and what remains specific to those who participated in the event. It is also a way of holding the exhibition itself to a script format, something that might be engaged with and realised elsewhere.
One area the essay does not explicitly explore is the form of the micro-exhibition itself. For the Writing Exhibitions event, eight 20 minute exhibitions followed one after the other, the format meaning that the get-in and get-out of each show were part of the exhibition experience. A constant group of 12 shifted between being exhibiting artists, participants, critics and exhibition goers.
Of course, in some ways this format made the exhibition into a performance. But there was also something particular that came from the (micro-) exhibition frame – a particular way of looking, and experiencing, and, possibly, remembering.
Thanks to Sabine Hochrieser, Michael Kargl (aka carlos katastrofsky), Birgit Rinagl, and Franz Thalmair of CONT3XT.NET for their work on this project. VerySmallKitchen is developing a number of projects around the concept and practice of scripts for exhibitions (both by curators and artists) and welcomes information and submissions of relevant projects. Please contact email@example.com.