Putting on a material Exhibition
Philippa King, Maria Young and I were the final students on the highly-disciplined MA By Project offered at The School of Architecture, Art and Design (formerly known as The Cass), London Metropolitan University. Because of restrictions of the 2020/21 Covid Pandemic, it was not possible to manifest a material Exhibition, the very goal towards which we had been working part-time over a two-year period. The outcomes of our MA By Project are displayed in London Met’s online exhibition, Liveness 2021.
I held a small exhibition in my home for a few hours on Saturday, 31st July. Could I transform my domestic space into a public exhibition venue? Was my default position to entertain as a host, thus putting on a display, a performance that reflected a hyper reality of myself and my home? Could I empty the space of myself, make it as innocent and impersonal as possible so the work stood alone as objects with a message of their own? I would then become incidental.
Within the limitations of budget, space and a complete upset of my home, I felt I was reasonably successful. For me, the space became impersonal by the very act of creating space around the the three objects I had submitted as the outcomes of my MA. I also made the written report accessible by hanging the pages in chronological order around the room. It was available to read if the viewer so desired and a material presence of the exhibition. Holding the exhibition also allowed me to add a collection of Slop basins that I have been collecting across the Spring and Summer months. I also laid out a pile of old-fashioned ‘at home’ invitations to parties I had received in my late teens.
The most interesting part for me was the feedback and conversations. I was very pleased with the final positioning of Mrs Hill at Home. It was important that it was tall enough to watch her face stare out in stony contemplation over the rim of her carapace as she revolved round and round. It was gently unsettling as her visage never changed.
I was also fascinated and pleased by references being made to a past time, Jane Austen’s world – the invitations laid out on the table with their allusions to polite behaviour in the home of a long bygone era. I had also included a dance card for a ball in Scotland that only dated back to 2009. This private social world continues, remaining invisible to those excluded from the domestic spaces of one social tribe. I had exposed myself and the trappings of this tribe, that for me seem so familiar and normal. It was as conversations progressed, I realised just how ‘other’ this world might be.
This sat well along an observation early in the afternoon about how problematic it can be to show narratives that involve people who are labelled as being of ‘the establishment’.
I felt that the cubes, Still Life: Tea Set was the least successful piece – For me the cubes represented building blocks as found in my childhood Triang baby-walker but the subject matter imposed onto the handmade blocks was not an appropriate marriage.
I have started the next project of this. Holding the exhibition spurred me on to visit Preston to research the material evidence left behind of a family whose form has been shaped by loss over five generations.
Thanks to Pippa King and Michelle Graham for their photographs. I tried to film walk round below.