Exhibition as Stage - Performance, Theatre, Body
'Narrative Encounters: negotiating contemporary exhibition spaces'
The performance of spaces is negotiated by individual experices, and the dialogues which are created between audience members and the space themselves. This is active and dynamic, which is especially apparent in the appropriation of unusual spaces, and sites in which the audience member became the artwork.
In museums, viewers create their own performances and narratives. They photograph themselves and their compatriots, making themselves the subject of their art, memorialising their narrative.
PS1 Contemporary Arts in Long Island, a structure originally designed as a public school, was converted in 1976 to the arts centre. this was once again increased in 1997, and is now affiliated with MOMA. But it is located in a different site, a different geography and landscape. It is a completely different structure. The 1969 exhibition restaged MOMA's 1969 exhibition, but also juxtaposed this with historical documentation regarding the museum's existence in that year and the responses of contemporary artists. The visitors were not given a pre-staged itinerary. There was no chronological order, each artefact was an entity within itself.
The small old classrooms of the Arts Centre fragmented any narrative, and permitted the telling of multiple stories and multiple themes. As authors achieve spatial form by focusing on the parts, focusing on the present, so to was 1969 marked by spatial and temporal dislocation. The past was layered in the present, and contemporary arts were placed in the past, and used elements of the past within themselves, such as music from the 1960s. The past was, in a sense, frozen in the present, and became a puzzle for the museum visitor to unpick. The tansplanted white cube gallery space provided a critique of the museum concept which was prevelent at that time. It also responded to the literary notion of framing, the self reflexive framing of the white cube space, itself a frame of art.
It was a space, then, of multiple voices, which provided the opportunities for diverse critiques and interpretations of the exhibition and its rationale. It engendered responses in other galleries, which used the same or similar materials to promote yet more alternate readings of that exhibition itself. Thus PS1's 1969 became yet another piece which was framed once more.
The DS Centre for the arts presented 'The Performance Exhibition of Creation'. This was a progressive experience, a dining extravegansa in which the audience were guided through a meal. The spaces themselves, for many people, evoked memories of people's previous experiences in the space, but also of the future of the Centre. Scarborough's own meaning was also affected by her earlier visit to PS1. And these memories have since interacted with her own, more recent experiences. Thus our knowledge and understanding of museums and exhibitions are caught up in intertextuality, enmeshed in a web of meaning. The narrative is a battlefield, where people struggle for control, and also a space in which all participants are constantly performing. We are all parts of the web, we are all actors.
This was a paper deeply influenced by her own experience, which was an experience built within her own education.
There are many ways in which we can term narrative. The stories which we are relating, the narrative of the curator and exhibition designer, the story of the self-narrative of the visitor.
Douglas Gittens and Ang Bartram
'Lost Gallery Spaces and the Performing Body'
From the University of Lincoln,
This paper represents the start of a project. The typological interiors of contemporary art galleries have become sterilised and homogenised. But they can also be considered as sites where in the odd and awkward can be examined, and, indeed, legitimated. They allow the visitor a space to reflect upon that which is outside their own experience. The traditional white cube space allows difference to exist safely, and often negates the historical differences which may remain apparent externally. The architectures of gallery space bring their multiple histories with them, and often change the meaning of the art work.
Site specific work bears a very different relationship to space than objects which are appropriated through galleries.
In orthographic renderings of spaces, the marks and scars and traces of human performance are often lost. How these can be retained is the subject of the project. The space which was presented, x-church, is an interesting space which has been used as a space for art, but has NOT been appropriated as a white cube. Any work created there, therefore, has to be sensitive to it. All work there is site specific. It is an unorthodox community creative space. It is a fluctuating, transitory space, filled with unexpected, ephemeral items. How might these irregularities be rendered in an orthographic drawing? How does the performance remain and how is it remembered?
Recent orthographies of the space did not incorporate the areas with which they were particularly concerned. They had to construct their own. Orthographic drawings posit an authority, a technocratic sense of truth. In this, much is overooked. Survey drawings discuss technicalities only. Those ideas outwith them are only irregularly recorded, and only the undamaged, technically legitmate aspects are recorded within them. Though marks and traces may be noted, in the drawings buildings are regularised.
The artist wants to promote difference. So the marginalised body, by its presence in the gallery, reinvigorates the heterogentity of the space. We can, once more, become aware of the irregularities and transient qualities of places. The out of context creates a tension, building the relevance of the underused, and thus a new space is created, to which, in Lefebvre's terms, the response is often visceral. Ang climbed through the space, wearing a microphone which created a drawing in sound. The body had to document the decay and loss which was part of the church, part of what the space was, is and will be. Repeated visits highlighted further these processes of decay. Five visits and performances left their own marks on the building, the artist, and the later performances themselves. Each performance became modified in terms of the others, the space changing each time, and the artist's knowledge altering constantly. After these performances, Ang marked the orthographic drawings with the 'marked' and damaged places on the building, to represent the space as it was on its architectural map, the actual within the ideal.
These sessions, for me, recalled layering. The change which things undergo, the meanings we are consistently changed and reformed over time, is such an inherent part of buildings. How do we - indeed, should we attempt to memorialise these? Or should we allow memories to decay? They showed how we might understand the different ways in which spaces, people and art becomes. Perhaps we should stop being so prescriptive and regulative in what we present, or perhaps we should make the methods by which we do so more obvious. We need to understand that we are interpreters too, making meanings of our own, and we need to make this plain. Every interpretation is a set of reductive processes - they cannot help but be. This should not devalue them - rather, its recognition should make them ever much more valuable.
The Attic (a name which commemorates our first physical location) is, first and foremost, a site for the research students of the School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester: a virtual community which aims to include all students, be they campus-based and full-time, or distance-learning and overseas. But we welcome contributions from students of museum studies - and allied subject areas - from outside the School and from around the world. Here you will find a lot of serious stuff, like exhibition and research seminar reviews, conference alerts and calls for papers, but there's also some 'fluff'; the things that inspire, distract and keep us going. After all, while we may be dead serious academic types, we're human too.