It’s going to be hard not to enthuse. The installation process, and subsequent opening of Alison’s exhibition, was such a good experience, I’m unsure if I know how not to.
We have been running Plǝt- for over a year, with Alison’s exhibition being the sixth exhibition to which we have played host. And while the project has been going along smoothly and with ever increasing momentum, I guess there must always come a time in a project’s trajectory where doubt creeps in; where energy starts being directed backwards, rather than forwards, to check what is really being accomplished or made. This was what was happening in the months before Alison’s exhibition –leading us to revisit previous exhibitions and thoughts to contextualize the present movements. But, while past texts showed how we were developing in thought, the proof that we have been moving forward as a space presented itself during the process of installing Alison’s work.
Since the initial exhibitions, installing work at Plǝt- has become more and more of a collaborative process. Not in the sense that we help make the work, but rather in the sense that we assert our position – insuring that two spaces (living + exhibition) will find an equilibrium within the room. Finding this balance has always been a motivation at Plǝt- and therefore inviting Alison to exhibit was, in hindsight, a blatant attempt to challenge this notion. Knowing that her works (ad)dress the entire room, asking her to exhibit at Plat- -which always needs to accommodate its tenant- meant that we would potentially end up with more than one room could handle.
Through the course of running Plǝt-, the biggest difference we have identified between living and exhibition spaces is movement. While a living space is in constant motion – servicing and reflecting the act of living – an exhibition space relies on various degrees of being static. Bold works demand attention – stopping the room in its tracks or overshadowing its every movement. Delicate works, on the other hand, often demand a wide circumference of space to ensure that they do not get lost - shifting the use of space further and further away from their edges until there is little, or no, room left. The two logics –of living and exhibiting- can therefore often stand in almost complete contradiction.
My enthusiasm for Alison’s show comes with the evasion of this incompatibility. While both artist (Alison) and tenant (myself) stood our grounds for what we respectively required of the room, we slowly, over a two-day process, found the middle ground. The artwork was given the presence it needed by an almost all-encompassing mural, while furniture and books were given the physical space they required by being scattered around the room. While the first exhibitions of Plǝt-‘s program would use the apartment’s second room to hide aesthetically displeasing, everyday objects (removing them from view to literally give the art work space) by this exhibition, the incorporation of everyday objects within the exhibition meant this second room was so free that, in the end, it was even able to host the (sole) painting of the show. While it may seem like a trivial detail, the reason why I’m enthusing about is that it means that in both rooms, neither the art nor the everyday objects overshadow or dwindle the other. There feels, throughout the entire apartment, to be a symbiosis between art and living.
But it’s still early days.
The living room walls are scrubbed with metallic grey paint, creating the atmosphere of a slightly pompous, rich person’s cave crossed with a theatre stage. (I keep expecting to see plastic flowers; but they are not there.) And while the room is now in its after-opening quiet, for hours it buzzed with bodies that stood in stark contrast to these walls. Not in the way that dark colours stand out against white, but rather how the fuzzed chaos of the walls contrasted with the clean-cut colours of their clothing, creating photogenic situations between painted and living textures. While these aesthetically full moments were there, they also did not feel stuck – the photogenes coming from the walls of the room itself, rather than a set composition that would come from the position of an eye, or of a camera. Unlike some installations, which have a definite front and back, this one engulfs the entire room, including its movements.
What this means is that while the room has taken a complete aesthetic transformation, it is because of this overarching transformation that it stays relaxed: the work is so present that it has no threat of becoming lost - creating a somewhat paradoxical situation where its precisely because of its all-encompassing presence that there is space for other movements.
The closest example I can make to demonstrate this relationship is that of hosting, or being, a guest. While logic might point towards a quiet guest being the least imposing, I have found this not to be the case. Silence almost communicates as an apology of one’s presence, and yet, no matter how little we try to make ourselves, unobtrusiveness will never make us disappear. Rather, the guest that brings energy to a space, one that acknowledges their presence and helps support it, becomes the guest that is the lightest load. An apologetic, or timid attitude therefore only masks one’s presence, while acknowledgement, and subsequent knowledge, of our presence in an environment allows us to take responsibility for our affect.
I guess this is what Alison’s work is doing. By spreading itself across all the walls (stopping just before it forgets itself) it announces it is here. And in response, so do the objects in the room that are required for living: cords snake next to the sculptures to service the lights; pens, tools, washing lines stand in waiting. They are all here. And for now, none overpower the other.
Or this is how it feels. It is of course just day one. And there are fifty more to go. Who knows how it will be experienced after fifty days of cohabitation? Will some elements occupy the room over time with more prowess? Will accumulated experience through them out of balance? I’m not sure, which is why -for now- I’m looking towards these upcoming days with excitement.