Wednesday, 7 October 2009

PLACE Projects - NWSP Curation

We wanted to give you a bit more information about our process....

The selection process for the artists we wanted to be involved in the Guest Room project wasn’t difficult: we know lots of great artists, we go and see shows by emerging artists all the time and often like what we see. So we looked at shows, plenty of shows, and saw no end of good work. So after lakes of coffee and complex negotiations between the three of us we arrived at a small short list of people whose work interested us and who we hoped might like to be involved. Easy? Sort of…

Actually, it wasn’t really easy at all: if it had simply been a matter of exhibition then it would have been simple, however this was about initiating a collaborative process between individuals who had not worked together before and, as such, was much more about the intricate alchemy of personalities and working practices than it was about comparatively straightforward conceptual and aesthetic concerns.

In addition, in inviting the shortlisted artists to talk to us, we happened upon certain fundamental questions about our own roles within the project: we agreed that we didn’t want to set ourselves up as arbiters of taste, and felt that our roles in the emergent process were much more heavily weighted towards the facilitatory rather than the curatorial.

By the same token then, in putting the emphasis in this undertaking towards the idea that we would invite people to take part based on trying to set up pairings of artists who would work well together and get the most out of the experience, we were also wary that it sounded like we were either conducting a popularity contest or sinister Big Brotheresque social experiment.

This was an uncomfortable part of the project for us. A key part of our motivation to start Place Projects was our own experiences as recent graduates. Art school is an immersive experience; it is an encouraging space that allows the individual to make mistakes and take risks in a supportive environment, graduating into the competitive outside world with a head full of questions can feel like being thrown off a cliff. We wanted to be a trampoline at the bottom if that isn’t too idiosyncratic a way of describing what we’d like to do in our more earnest moments.

So, all that being the case, there was real discomfort to us in talking to people we hoped might be involved about the project in a way that allowed them to recognise that even if we didn’t invite them to participate in the end, this was not to be taken as rejection.

The art world is not always at ease with sincerity and earnestness, and arguably the sooner after graduation you get tough and equip yourself to deal with rejection effectively the better, but there has to a be a happy medium, we feel. Especially as we were not entering into this process to pass judgement on the work of others, only to try a set up a rewarding experience for both ourselves and the artists.

This part of the process really opened our eyes to how much there is for us to learn from this project and how we may formulate and implement more effective strategies in the future.

PLACE Projects - NWSP Curation


You can read all about PLACE Projects curation of the NWSP guest room in an interview with Cheryl Field, Jamie Kenyon & Rose Ruane in the new NWSP Publication - out now (in an arts space near you)!

PLACE Projects - NWSP Curation - The Project So Far...

Place Projects was established around a central ethos of connection: consolidating existing connections between artists and groups and fostering new ones between those who might not otherwise meet, all with a view to facilitating dynamic, risk-taking shows and events.

When we applied to be part of New Work Scotland at the Collective Gallery, we wanted to embed those long held ideas at the very centre of the project we were proposing.

We were delighted to be selected but immediately had a healthy sense of trepidation about how the project could possibly work and there seemed to be an endless number of frighteningly shifting variables involved in what we had set out to do.

The idea was this: the guest room is a small and unusual space, and rather than enter an unwinnable war of attrition with the architecture, we decided to work with its oddness as a room and create a project which would set the artists at the core, providing them with scope to use the gallery in any way they deemed interesting.

We decided to set up collaborations between artists who had not worked together before, with the emphasis on a transparent process of collaboration with the importance shifted away from output and towards the experience of coming together to generate ideas and possibly works.

Once we had cemented this as the outline for the Guest Room, we realised that setting those particular variables to rest had invited a whole new set of questions and concerns; like a set of Russian dolls, every seeming conclusion or point of settlement gave rise to further necessities for careful consideration.

As we realised how intricate a process we had initiated, we began to realise that, in line with our ideals of generosity and risk taking, we should open up the development of the project to anyone who might be interested. Any artistic undertaking has points of friction and struggle which are usually obfuscated by the presentation of outcomes, often leaving little scope for others to learn from mistakes or take away an understanding of how to replicate successful elements, so with this in mind, it became highly important to us make available all the highs and lows of this collaborative process.

And this project is collaborative on several levels: Place Projects and the Collective, Place Projects and the artists, the artists and Collective. We all have a role and a voice in this, and have agreed to be, albeit tactfully and constructively, wholly open in expressing the strengths and weaknesses that emerge in the networks we are building and navigating with this undertaking.

PLACE Projects - NWSP Curation - The Artists

About the Artists....

Rachel Maclean

Bio - Rachel Maclean is a recent graduate of The Edinburgh College of Art. She is based in Edinburgh and works with digital composite video, installation and sculpture, performance, painting and costume.

Artist's Statement - Slipping inside and outside of history and into imagined futures, my work presents a hyper-glowing, artificially saturated surface that is both nauseatingly positive and cheerfully grotesque.

In recent videos such as ‘Tae Think Again’ (2008) and ‘I Dreamed a Dream' (2009), I create synthetic visceral spaces in which Mary Queen of Scots dines with the 'it' girls of 'Sex and the City', 'Neds' dance around a sausage Stonehenge, and a ghoulish Susan Boyle plays the blow up guitar.

Stylistically I unify the aesthetic of The Edinburgh Bargain Store, Hieronymus Bosch and High Renaissance painting through MTV style green-screen and channel changing cuts. Often working with multi-media installation, I use my own body as a platform for constructing alternative personas that can be cloned, mutated, objectified, worshiped and murdered at will.

Inspired by the Britney Spears head shaving, I am interested in the moment at which unified, constructed identity throws it's self up and tips into it's opposite. The instant of self-consumption, when the signature white smile of the teen pop sensation begins to hungrily gnaw at it's own image.

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Simon Gowing

Bio - Born in London, Gowing graduated from The Glasgow School of Art and now lives and works as a curator and artist in Glasgow.

Artist's Statement - Simon Gowing is interests in dialogue and language. His work is based in the elements of dialogue that are lost in translation between artist and viewer - the fictions created by discrepancy.

Often taking place in public, his pieces are created in the interaction between the artist, audience and the object. He takes the role of facilitator, creating a situation and allowing those involved to determine the outcome through their responses. However, when it comes to work to be exhibited in a gallery he becomes an editor, gathering together the objects and images gleaned from these interactions to create new pieces, which retain only a hint of the context in which they were originally found.

The objective of these quasi-retrospectives is to represent the interventions as an abstract, drawing the work away from its original site and opening it up to new interpretations.

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Ric Warren

Bio - Born in Barnsley (Yorkshire) 1986, Ric Warren is based in Glasgow. He graduated from Environmental Art at The Glasgow School of Art in 2008 and has exhibited across the UK and within Europe.

Artist's Statement - My work is an exploration of the structures and materials that compose our manmade surroundings and I am particularly interested in architecture. I believe that urban structures have effects beyond their basic functions and I try to explore the symbolic meanings of these materials and forms. In addition to investigating conditions of contemporary urbanism, I am interested in the historical and hypothetical changes of our human habitat (physically, politically, culturally, socially and environmentally) as well as the everyday maintenance and progress of our built surroundings.

Spaces that are visually concealed or made physically inaccessible intrigue me and I try to explore these concerns within my work. Often exploring themes of exclusion, I am interested in structures that effect to conceal, edit, remove, obstruct, imprison, or deny access. Similar to my intentionally flawed ‘faux architectural’ drawings, my structures and models attempt to mimic the language of architecture, or intervene with it, to create structures that hold space but do not offer it.

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Katherine Gallacher

Bio - A recent graduate from the painting / printmaking department of Glasgow School of Art Gallacher’s practice extends across the mediums of painting, video and sculpture.

Artist's Statement - My work investigates the unfulfilled utopian aspirations of the twentieth century avant-garde. This, however, is not an attempt at mere homage or appropriation; it is instead a re-enactment of intention and mode of construction. In revisiting the past I hope to explore the tension between the possible, potential and limitation of such works to move the viewer. The works are a place to test out the past’s desires for the future, creating a point of collision between historical aspiration and an expectancy of failure afforded by hindsight.

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PLACE Projects - NWSP Curation

We are absolutely delighted to have been invited by The Collective Gallery in Edinburgh to curate their 'guest room' as part of the New Work Scotland Programme 2009.

As recent graduates ourselves we understand that upon graduation, the idea of being a practicing artist can quickly shift from being an entirely reasonable to an utterly absurd one; imbued with all the endearing but ridiculous bravado of the small child who declares the intention to be an astronaut or fairy princess. Belief is built on confidence and PLACE Projects view artist’s networks as fundamental to supporting the ability of an artist to believe in the purpose of generating artworks. Connectedness, communal purpose and consistent dialogue between peers allows cultural, social and intellectual capital to be accrued and foster a sense of possibility and plausibility. It is this shared belief that led us to conceive our new project for the Collective Gallery’s New Work Scotland Programme which is essentially all about collaboration.

We have invited 4 artists (Simon Gowing, Rachel Maclean, Ric Warren & Katherine Gallacher) to participate in 2 collaborative projects (2 artists in each project: Simon & Rachel and then Ric and Katherine), the outcomes of which will be exhibited in the Collective Guest Room (Project 1 exhibition - 10th October to 22nd November and Project 2 exhibition - 5th December to 31st January).

The intentions for the project are multifarious and include:
• Fostering links between emerging artists and building strong support structures and communities.
• Instigating discussions between practitioners as a method for development of individual praxis.
• Exploring the role of negotiation in the creative process.
• Exchanging skills and ideas.
• Encouraging the production of dynamic interdisciplinary work.

Other than the basic requirements to navigate the creative process together, no other conditions or frameworks has been imposed upon the participating artists. We will also aim to document the creative-collaborative process and the dialogues (between The Collective, PLACE Projects and the artists) arising from each project, with the aim of making them accessible and transparent to other artists, curators and audiences.