Tag Archives: Westspace

Curators & Current Exhibitions

Some current exhibitions that I’ve seen in Melbourne made me think about the curators. In reviewing exhibitions in this blog I have endeavoured to give credit to the curators but it also time to give them some critical attention.

Bernhard Sachs and Brad Haylock curate the current exhibition at West Space. I don’t know why they bothered. The title of the show is a beautiful work of art in itself: “The Office of Utopic Procedures Presents: The Aesthetics of Joy – The Infinite International of Poetics” but the exhibition doesn’t support it. Both curators are also exhibiting in the show along with a more or less random selection of artists. Was the exhibition about the aesthetics of joy or was the title so vague that anything could be included? The works in the exhibition are diverse in every sense and there is little cohesion, even the hanging on deep blue walls didn’t create a unity. The exhibition contains the usual contemporary curator’s mix of video art, installation and wall painting. I expect something more from a curators than this exhibition with its pretentious title.

The curators do hit the jackpot with a work by Kellie Wells, a video installation with wall painting that actually appears to be on the exhibition’s theme. Kellie Wells is jumping for joy amongst horizontal strips of elastic. These horizontal strips appear in the minimalist wall painting. It was like the children’s game except played by an adult. The ominous rumbling soundtrack to the installation is the only discordant note in the work.

At Michael Koro Gallery I saw a simpler exhibition. It is simply titled with the names of the participating artists: Ash Keating. Andrew Hutson, Daniel Du Bern and Marcin Wojcik. No curator credited but the hanging was elegantly simple. Ash Keating likes to separate rubbish – it is the environmentally responsible thing to do. And Ash Keating takes rubbish separation to an art – a black pile of plastic waste and white pile of plastic waste. Andrew Hutson is exhibiting three sculptural scenes made of painted paper-mache. They have a whimsical mood, a simple direct style and clear ideas. Daniel Du Bern is showing 10 oil ink prints of strange handmade weapons, perhaps handed in during a police amnesty, as suggested by the series title: Amnesty. These crude but deadly weapons are depicted in a cool, neutral and grey style as artefacts. In the laneway next to Michael Koro Gallery Marcin Wojcik has made small sailing ship made of sticky tape over a wooden frame.

I also saw the Shilo Project at the Ian Potter Museum of Art is curator by Dr Chris McAuliffe. In the exhibition pop music album covers, and dot to dots, meet contemporary art. It is a curatorial dream of an exhibition to include so many artists with a theme exhibition with iconic pop status. The 100 works of art looked coherent because they were all on 100 copies of Neil Diamond’s Shilo album with its dot to dot drawing cover art. There are no breathtakingly great art in this exhibition but the installation of the exhibition is a curatorial work of art incorporating the record store style, a record player and even imitation record store bins full of Neil Diamond records. CDs, with their smaller format, killed the art of the album cover – this exhibition does not attempt to revive it but to redirect it.


Collaboration Exercise

“Advance/Retreat” is an exhibition at Westspace curated by Brad Haylock and Mark Richardson. “Three experiments in transdisciplinary collaboration” occupy Westspace’s three gallery spaces.

In the middle of the first space, shut off by a chain-link steel gate, a large plant sits in a garbage bag a single root trailing to an empty glass.

The next space subtly vibrates both visually and aurally with fishing-line running in almost invisible vertical stripes across the white walls. (Coincidently my father used a similar arrangement of fishing-line to trap bats in order to study their homing abilities.) This is accompanied by an elegant video of male and female hands collaborating to string the fishing-line. And a sound piece that all worked together in a successful harmony.

The final space contains a scatter style installation by so many artists that it would be hard to imagine them all working together in the small space. “Working space” is a reference to the title of a book by Frank Stella.

“Advance/Retreat”is about lines: minimalist lines, vibrating lines, and dividing lines. Lines area major component of art, from visual lines to written lines, but that does not make them interesting. Lines might be essential for art but I don’t suspect that good art is about the essentials. Searching for creativity in artist-run-initiatives appears to be endless exercises rather than new experiments.

I don’t know if the number of collaborating curators, artists and designers (15+) added to the quality of this small exhibition. I can see the strategic advantage to the collaboration. Collaborations like this allow the artists to record more exhibitions on their CV and spread themselves thinner. However, collaboration should not be a goal in and of itself as it is simply a means of working.


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