Dial Emma

Jonathan's Art Dilemma No. 17: What are exhibitions for?

Friday, 10 December 2010


The chaos and confusion that surrounded the White Nights was fantastic. We all felt proud to be part of it, however brief. “too short and too fast. I think that we could have walked around again and stopped more to let the public see more.” It was the perfect environment. An ad hoc experiment of flat 2D images up above, in amongst the swirly madness of zombies, opera, folk singers, day of the dead celebrations and roving packs of drunken nutters. Great night. “Whose are those faces at the back of my phone pictures? Oh, someone said that they are the people who work when it’s dark. Weird.”

Friday, 26 November 2010

Liverpool, 2010.

The Royal Liverpool Hospital is on the verge of redevelopment. The main building will soon be demolished. This was the site for Bridget Riley's brief foray into public art. 1979, asked to decorate the corridors of the new hospital, Riley designed a system of colour coding. One that used pattern and colour intensity to indicate where you were in the hospital. What Riley thought would be simple turned out to be incredibly complex. For respite she went to Egypt. In the temples she saw how the ancient Egyptians had used multi coloured palettes, how they had painted with the architecture rather than trying to obliterate it.
Bridget Riley returned invigorated. Bold horizontal stripes of blues, mauves, pinks, black and whites. Rather than paint applied directly onto the walls she had the designs printed on to vinyl wallpaper, this would hold the colours better, be simpler to clean or repair.
Three years later the designs were painted over. What was planned to be calming and uplifting received a critical thumbs down from patients and staff of the hospital. ‘Too hectic’. The walls returned to drab normality.
No remnants remain. I’ve spoken to those who were involved at the hospital. Questions are treated with good grace and humour, but even now you can tell that they were relieved to see the wallpaper taken down. I wonder whether there are a few rolls in a store cupboard somewhere? It would be interesting to hear what Bridget remembers about the experience. 

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Weekend in Manchester

Weekend (detail) (2010) Stefan Zeyen
On the outside of the Cornerhouse cinema there has been pasted probably fifty connecting prints that make a two dimensional version of the memorable scene from Jean-Luc Godard’s film Le Weekend. Walking sideways down Whitworth Street, on the pavement, close to the wall actually produces a real time version of the tracking shot. JLG took ten minutes to cover the distance. It was hard work going that slow in the mini version. I bumped into a couple waiting at a bus stop. It did make me realise how few cars and actors there are in the filmed ‘traffic jam’ and how choreographed the action needed to be. Nearer to Jacques Tati than New Wave.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

House of Terror

Continuing the theme of turning galleries inside out, Denise suggested The House of Terror in Budapest as an example. A museum, a civil monument documenting the disgusting treatment meted out by Hungarians on fellow Hungarians. Known as the House of Loyalty during the second war officials from the government tracked down Hungarian Jews, overseeing their internment in death camps.  After the defeat of the nazi backed regime the building became the HQ of the Hungarian communist secret police, the AVI. The torture continued until the fall of the Berlin wall.
The architects of the museum have designed the building so that photographs of those killed inside are shown on the outside walls. Conversely, on a wall in the exhibition there are pictures of those who carried out the atrocities. Some of whom still live in Budapest.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

100 jours (2009)

100jours en Paris (2009)
100jours en Paris (2009)
Cycling around central Paris last summer I whizzed past a large wall plastered with photos. Some sort of official document and passport style portraits. It was dark, I was hungry.

The next day I went back. The wall was in the area close to Place de la Republique. There had been sit ins, demonstrations and occupations of nearby buildings by groups of “Sans Papiers” earlier in the year. One lunchtime I had chatted with a group who had occupied a road junction. Without residency papers they were unable get legitimate work, a place to live and were vulnerable to all manner of abuse. Their situation needed ‘regularising’. They were desperate to bring the issue to a head.

I can’t speak French so couldn’t translate the photocopied description about the 100days photo exhibition. I could tell from universal language of the deportation letters that it was giving symbolic support to the sans papiers. The photographs were of people who had fled to France during previous periods of migration. Perhaps they had been taken in the photographic studio next door. History is sketchy. My explanation might be completely wrong. Weren’t the 100 Days something to do with the Battle of Waterloo? 

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Pop stars wife

Someone who successfully morphs the boundaries between visual art, music and storytelling is Laurie Anderson. On Saturday she performed a one off show at the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill. I had forgotten about her deadpan humour. It makes you jump to attention after being lulled into the complexities of a story. The process made me laugh.
This is how the Brighton (and thus by default, Bexhill) Argus covered the story. No credit, where no credit is due.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Knitting display

One week after the White Night events a pair of knitted bicycle clips (?) still embellish the hideous monument to Max Miller in Pavilion Gardens, Brighton. So little effort, such a big improvement.