About the Exhibition
for ‘Everything Must Go’, VTO, London
About the Exhibition is a response to the difficulties of making work for a group exhibition. In particular, there is always the danger that the structure of the exhibition will circumscribe the individual work: constraining and containing it by allotting it a sanctioned place in an overarching structure. In such circumstances, what the work is, is less important than the place is occupies. The encounter with the work is mediated by it filling a slot within the structure of the exhibition: the individual work becomes an illustration of itself.
This work seeks to hijack the group exhibition. It consists of two posters, which aim to orientate themselves on a different axis to the structure of the exhibition. One is displayed just inside the gallery and carries the title “About the Exhibition.” It is intended to be mistaken for an official gallery text. However, although it begins by explaining the exhibition in some sense, it soon becomes clear that it is not an official gallery text. As such, it transforms the reader’s sense of what she is reading. It also points to the second poster, located outside the gallery and outside the structure of the exhibition. This poster is about the difficulties of escape.
Text of poster inside the gallery:
About the Exhibition
Everything Must Go aims to include every artist who has participated in previous V.T.O. exhibitions. It is an exhibition of hundreds of artworks packed into a small gallery space. It is, therefore, a display of an excessive amount of art. The challenge for any participating artist is to make a work which will not be subsumed by the spectacular excess of this curatorial premise. That is, the inclusiveness of the unselected show is radically indifferent to the identity of any particular piece of work. The curatorial logic of the exhibition is the play of differences between works; what is important is the structure of multiplicity. Individual artworks articulate points in this structure; they occupy points of display which are semantically empty: they could be filled by anything.
Thus, the group exhibition can be a trap for the artist; the difficulty for the artist can be to escape its particular logic. If the curatorial structure determines how works are seen, then it seems necessary for the artist to tackle that structure: circumstances which precedes the display of artwork. Making art can be part of the problem. Curatorial expectations operate not only in the exhibition but in the things surrounding the exhibition and especially in writing about the exhibition. Writing can be a form of containment. In order to keep alive the idea of escaping from the exhibition, and, indeed, to be vigilant against the closures of art itself, it might, ironically, become necessary for the artist to write something: to put writing, and thus reading, in the place of the point of display of art.
There is, or was, another, companion piece of writing posted in the street outside the gallery. It is a piece of writing which has attempted to escape the exhibition. If this panel of writing in the gallery is about the exhibition in the sense of describing something about it, then the piece of writing in the street is about the exhibition in the sense of being outside of it but in proximity to it.To be in the street, however, is not to escape from the closures of interpratative structures.
Text of poster outside the gallery:
About the Exhibition
Everything Must Go is the title of an exhibition. The slogan is usually an enticement to buy something: an advertisement. This poster, however, is an escapee from an art exhibition. It is not trying to sell you anything. On the street, art might be some kind of stain: somehting out of place. However much this writing is designed to be read in the street, rather than the gallery – to be seen to be continuous with everything else – there is still an embarassment about putting writing, qua art, outside the gallery.
Being in the street is no way to escape the determinates of the gallery. The street is not a place free from the constraints of the gallery; art in the street is subject to the same divisions, exclusions and absences as art in the gallery. Putting art on the street can emphasise the continuities with the gallery rather than draw a distinction between them. Social division and contradiction are not articulated in a putative divide between art and something or everything else but run through everything, including art.
There is another companion piece of writing in V.T.O. gallery. It is a piece of writing that masquerades as an official explanation of the exhibition. It should be obvious that it is not what it might appear, however. It is about the difficulty facing artists participating in shows such as this: something that such texts do not usually bring up. The writing attempts to be some kind of hiatus amongst the other artworks.