Reflection: Presentation styles

At this point I don’t have an opportunity to attend any new exhibitions in KL. The arts and culture scene is not the same as I was accustomed to in Liverpool. Also my current home situation leaves me limited to explore further afield. However I have written about all of the exhibition and arts events I was able to attend prior to May 2019.

There is a lot of variety in scale and disciplines to the events I have attended. The most photography specific one was Shape of Light at the Tate Modern. This survey on abstraction in art and photography was an inspirational starting point for both BoW and CS. In BoW it was the variety of ways people have explored abstraction which gave me a point of entry. Most of the work is confined to a white cube and constrained within a frame behind glass. I found through my other, more interactive interests such as contemporary sculpture, an area that perhaps compared to the darkroom, hasn’t been as fully explored. The lack of Korean photographers prompted a subject I have pursed throughout CS, the impact of globalisation and Korean photography. I have said before, institutions such as Tate have their value, especially in being able to bring together such vast collections. But there are limitations to them also, which I reflected on visiting Tate Liverpool back in April. Too often, attempts to make the white cube seen as something more interactive can only work if the viewer partakes in something more than simply new cosmetics.

I found a sound installation by Emma Smith at HOME, Manchester to be a more engaging way to make the white cube an interactive space. But this is also down to the artists practice being, by nature, participatory. When I visited Toronto last year, I was able to attend Edward Burtynsky’s new exhibition Anthropocene at the AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario). Burtynsky is one of those photographers whose work can dominate a white cube sufficiently so the viewer can remain focused on the image space throughout. This leaves him open to criticism, along with many other contemporaries who produce large-format prints with gallery as destination in mind. But in his case I think there is a case for the white cube being a functional space. Particularly as now he collaborates with other disciplines such as video and AR.

Two festival events I wrote about are the Liverpool Biennial and LightNight. The biennial I found at times frustrating, but I sense that the point of them is to challenge the viewer. The open space work and events seem to make biennials more inclusive. Again I believe the white cube institutions fail here because a lot of work is not capable of occupying a space well enough. It is often low budget work that I feel gets lost and incapable of creating a presence. This can be true at times in public art spaces, like I noted in the CFCCA (Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art). What makes these spaces more engaging is that they offer artist residencies. This is an exclusive state for the artist, however the social utility comes from the workshops the artist in residence might provide during their time. The event that I found most inclusive was LightNight. Because it is a fixed date in the city calendar, it allows for many unofficial events to blend in to the ‘official program’ set up the the established institutions. This is a way my interventions could be undertaken by my own invitation, knowing there will be an active audience in the public space during the time of installation.

When recently asking my feedback network for thoughts on how my BoW could operate in the real world, the more interesting approach discussed might be to perform a demonstration, or attend a residency. To create an event that reflects on site-specificity and responding to the environment. I think my BoW is something that accumulates case studies that are documented digitally. But to experience it, an event or residency in a white cube could be far more interesting than say document prints on a white wall.