Saturday, 26 November 2011

Art Gymnasium

I’ve been invited to be one of a group of artist contributors to a current exhibition ("Atelier Public") in Gallery 3 of the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) in Glasgow, due to finish on the 17th January 2012. I’m working in collaboration with a good friend, Peter McCaughey, and so far we’ve spent two afternoons working (playing) in the space and we’re planning to spend a few more before the end of the show.

The exhibition takes the form of an open studio where everyone (both invited artists and general public) is encouraged to create artworks in a freeform accumulating installation. A selection of materials etc. are available and there are various means of display as well as furniture for working, reading and talking. It’s not a new idea but if you know my views on “newness” or “progress” then perhaps you’ll understand why I don’t think this is a significant criticism.

I heard today that one of the other invited artists was taken aback when they found the space so filled with other people’s work. It’s not surprising really since it’s already bristling with stuff. As a backdrop to anything subtle it couldn’t be worse and I’ve often found myself looking for a quiet spot to photograph things out of the range of other work, so I can certainly see why other artists would be completely put off by this environment. But despite my misgivings I’ve noticed something which seems unexpectedly positive about the whole event. Today I had the realisation that the gallery isn’t a gallery in the conventional sense at all but has been transformed into a kind of creativity gym. People are turning up in surprisingly large numbers and getting stuck in and are genuinely enjoying themselves. They’re staying not for what they can see but for what they can do. And whilst for the invited artists this is unlikely to be a major motivation (because it provides neither a stage nor an isolated garret), for the general public it’s an opportunity to exercise skills that probably haven’t seen the light of day since school.

Perhaps a few more of such workout spaces would be a good thing for the 'creative economy' that we so often hear that we are part of.


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