The Alchemy Of Curating. "Framework 6: Parallelisms", Part 2 at insitu

The Alchemy Of Curating. "Framework 6: Parallelisms", Part 2 at insitu

At the opening of Parallelisms, Part 2, insitu

Basically, there are three kind of art exhibitions. Even if you don’t know a thing about contemporary art, you can trust your bodily experience on sensing the difference between the three types. A good exhibition is where you walk around in between the artworks and you feel there is a communication going on. One art work reveals something about the other and vice versa. This kind of exhibition works on all the senses: not only for the eye, but also for the ear, the touch, and the taste. Then there is the bad exhibition in which the art works communicate against one another and take away each others space. Instead of opening up into new spaces, the exhibition closes down. But the worst exhibition is the exhibition where there is no communication at all: you walk around and you see dead art. 

So what is the alchemy of good curating? The insitu team seems to have cracked its code in the second part of Parallelisms featuring Eli Cortiñas, Sam Smith and Ingo Mittelstaedt. Part 1 was my experiment in literary curating with the same three artists. I offered a story one could engage with or not, in a minimalist set-up with three posters and three art works, lighted mercilessly by neon tubes. Part 2, curated by the insitu team, switches sides in both form and content: a darkened room adorned with only a few soft spotlights and a newly built wall constructed as a negative of the doorway, while content-wise focusing on the negative spaces that characterise the approach of the artists, yet all this within a same minimalist set-up. And instead of letting the spectator decide to engage with the story or not, this set-up draws you in, unfolding itself when you move through the space. Very subtly the curating pushes you in a bodily way through the exhibition. 

To understand the alchemy of this curating, I did some sketching, trying to figure out the system behind it. Unfortunately, this mapping can’t be used as a dummy for all your future exhibitions: it totally depends on the space and the art work. The only solution would be to hire the insitu team (or to pick their brain)...

After all this mapping I came up with the following instruction manual, which is not complete because, evidently, it's really hard to put your finger on any kind of alchemy: 

1. Upon entering (going down the small stairs into a dark space) one first encounters the split screen projection of Sam Smith's Frame, Lens, filmed with an analogue and a digital camera, with Sam behind the camera pointing the camera first at you. 

2. The camera starts turning around similar to a tower with revolving search lights, scanning its surrounding space.

3. You get confused at some point, no longer following which camera is filming which space where and which camera is tracking which camera (the analogue the digital one, or the digital the analogue one). This makes you also loose your sense of orientation bodily, up to a point that you stop watching.

4. That's when you automatically turn to the light. Ingo Mittelstaedt's photography on your right side is lighted with a soft spot, and getting close-up you discern lines that you figure to be the contours of empty display cases. This way the undefined space scanned by the camera in Smith's work here gets a more definite shape in the form of a display case in which art can emerge but is not there yet. 

5. Looking to fill that empty space with something substantial, you turn around for more art and now notice that the wall of the Sam Smith's projection is put in front of a doorway that leads to the next space, and if you're very smart you notice that the wall is the negative of the doorway (but your body might get it anyway, without reaching the level of your brain).

6. Going through that doorway you're possibly confronted with spectators sitting on the bench watching in your direction because there is a video projected on the backside of the negative wall of the doorway. This makes you enter into the imagery, you become one with the video image, which, again, makes you the subject of the camera. In this video actors are only shown from behind, whereas you enter into the game showing frontal face.

7. You turn around to see what the spectators on the bench are looking at. You see that the actors in Cortiñas' video Confessions with an open curtain, are shown in a back view while standing in front of a curtained window. When you glimpse further back into the first space, you yourself are glancing towards the outside, just like the actors in the video.

8.  You turn now to the left to see the photography by Mittelstaedt, again lighted by soft spots. The characters of Cortiñas' video seem to finally turn around to show face in Mittelstaedt's photography, yet not totally: his analogue photography shows a stone that has the features of a face, a shade that finishes the profile of a damaged sculptural portrait, and a sculptural head covered with cloth.  

9. When you leave the insitu space, you glance again to the photography on the left in the first space, filling its empty display cases now with the sculptural faces of the photography in the second space. Going up the stairs, your turn your back to Sam Smith's camera, while simultaneously playing a role in Cortiñas' video. It's then that you might sense that the exhibition is the negative space of you as the main subject.