|Pile - Chapter Arts Centre - seen here|
I popped into Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff yesterday and had a look at the current exhibition, Pile. On the first look round I didn't quite know how to negotiate the work, so I went out of the gallery and came in again with the intention of looking in a less prescribed way.
None of the work from the 31 artists represented is labeled, it has been arranged in groups, sometimes piled on top of other work. The conversation is an art hubbub, all the voices are speaking at once. It's an interesting idea, and ultimately the only clear voice, ringing like a bell is that of the curator, Craig Fisher.
On my second approach I looked at the gallery as a whole, much more as one unified installation than individual works. In that way it made a very cohesive and satisfying experience. The intention of the show is to "...question the conventions of showing work within a group exhibition." This aspect of the show is very successful - it felt quite weird to be looking at art in a gallery without the comforting language of labelling that we are used to. I realise that my own convention is to look at the work, and then look for the label, I want to find some kind of pivot through which to stabilise my experience. It's actually rather liberating to be denied that clarification.
The other question that is raised with this show is the role of the curator; the relationship and weighting of the curator's vision with the artist's work. I live in a strange no-man's land in my role as a gallery person on one hand and a practising artist on the other. I see the story from both sides of the fence and appreciate the role both play. It is probably the inevitable outcome of Post-modernism that the curator has become a deeply powerful creative force in his/her own right; arguably sometimes more powerful than the individual artist and even the art itself. Is this relationship good for 'art'? Does it contextualise the artist's work or manipulate it? Does it allow the work to speak or drown out it's authentic voice? Is it all about careers or all about interpretation? In this instance that curator is also a participating artist, so the debate is softened somewhat, he perhaps has more authority to play with the art in this way.
These are the participating artists: David Bance, Jonathan Baldock, Katriona Beales, Lotti V Closs, Sean Cummins, Sam Dargan, Sean Edwards, David Ersser, Craig Fisher, Dan Ford, Simon Franklin, Lynn Fulton, S Mark Gubb, Frank Kent, Brendan Lyons, Laura McCafferty, Zoe Mendelson, Clare Mitten, Jock Mooney, Lauren O’Grady, Audrey Reynolds, Gary Simmonds, Lucienne Simpson, Derek Sprawson, Debra Swann, Lee Triming, Gerard Williams, Annie Whiles, Richard Woodsand Neil Zakiewicz.