In do it, conceptual artists such as Christian Boltanski and Felix Gonzalez-Torres have supplied the instructions and people from Glasgow have made the art. Robert Montgomery rolls up his sleeves and discovers the artist in us all.
Certain figures in the Scottish art world attempted to start a moral panic recently. specifically artist Ken Currie and journalist ('laire Henry in their criticism 0fthe ’I‘rusl exhibition at 'l‘r‘arnway. Sketched out. their argument is that many conceptual artists rely on one-liners. that the work is too exclusive and that it has nothing to say to ‘ordinary' people. This criticism is no doubt designed to turn conceptual art into a kind of folk devil in Scotland and is in total contrast to the growing reputation that conceptual artists such as Douglas Gordon and Christine Borland are earning abroad.
The current exhibition at CCA shows that conceptual work is just as able to involve ‘ordinary' people as any other area of art. do 1! brings the ideas oftwelve well—known conceptual artists to Glasgow and within it you can find work that is by turns engaging. sensitive and humorous. There is a further level of interaction - the work has been made by members of the gallery staff and audience as well as a variety of folk from Glasgow (school kids. doctors. a cook . . . ). This is how (Io ll happens ~ the artists provide instructions. the exhibition travels and different people make the work in each place. "There are opportunities for subjective interpretation. not just within the instructions but also when the instructions are being translated from one language to another] curator Ilans Ulrich ()hrist explains.
Q Thus. according to interpretation the exhibition is ' different in Glasgow from it‘s previous incarnation in
Austria. It has the llavour of the city and the people who live there. Far from being elitist many of the ideas in the
exhibition show a sensitive interest in everyday life.
Hans Peter I"eldman requested that a photo of an unknown businessman be cut from a local newspaper
. and displayed with flowers on a sideboard or in a
memorial. The photo is a disposable image for trs. something we throw away when tomorrow‘s news comes but Feldman is reminding us that it might have another value. Maria Eichhorn is also concerned with how we construct sentiment around everyday objects. ller simple instructions -— 'Mu/w (1 silver ring. and [use ll m the slreel' are a poignant commentary on the fragility of sentiment.
()ther' works are playful reflections of social space: Alison Knowlcs‘ invitation for anyone to bring a red object into the gallery has produced a ‘colour field of pop artefaets which reflects the dreams and fetishes of our consumer society. I’unters getting involved also provides the entertainment in lean
Les Ecoliers: directed by Christian Boltanski, made by Glasgow school children
Jacques Rullier's work. a game of ‘visual chinese whispers‘ where people in the ('(‘A cafe were asked to copy a drawing. each one reproducing the efforts of the last. The result is a series of about St) drawings
' at the end of which the original. figurative illustration 5 is distorted into a scrawl that looks vaguely like a bad
Miro drawing. [)0 these drawings map out our collective unconscious'.’ Mike Kelley's device for recording ‘supernatural‘ noises is also highly entertaining.
It‘s time to calm down and to take a thoughtful look at contemporary art that is about ideas or ‘Conceptual Art‘ which. as this exhibition shows, is a diverse and actually integral area of our culture. As CCA Exhibitions Director Nicola White stresses, ‘this is a good place In .vlur‘l [hulking about art that is about ideas.‘ It is a good place to start because the atmosphere is informal and unintirnidating. right down to how the instructions have been hand-written in pencil on the wall. The message to take from (/0 it is simple: ideas in art are nothing to be afraid of because they are. after all. only human.
(/0 i/ a! [lie ('C'xl. (ilusgon' llllll/ 2‘) July.
‘lt’s neither a piss-take or a homage to John and Yoko,’ insists Katrina,
Robert there’s a desperate need for performance art in Edinburgh. His
Cynical slackers may think spending four days in bed is a good scam, especially if you can call it art. Katrina Smith, one half of the Bed- lanaraoke Version) performance piece, with her boyfriend Robert Montgomery, agrees: ‘lt’s not often you get to work and stay in bed at the same time.’
Inspired by the events of the Fluxus art movement and John and Yoko’s 1970’s honeymoon/peace protest Bed- In at the Amsterdam Hilton, Katrina and Robert are using the context of a gallery to take a sideways look at the fate of idealism and ask if there’s any place for idealist gestures in the 19903. ‘The installation and
Beyond ferry and June: Bed-In
performance artists of the 60’s are kind of heroic figures to my generation of artists,’ says Robert. ‘In the same way that Oasis look up to the Beatles.’
‘we’re just using it as a starting point.’
Robert and Katrina’s nostalgia for a time when pop stars and artists seemed to be in a powerful position to change society doesn’t mean their performance is intended to be a rose- tinted view of 1960’s counter culture. ‘Karaoke is humorous and modern and we like the idea of attaching it to something that happened 25 years ago,’ says Robert. ‘Ihere’s an element of irony in using a gallery, we want to turn it into a social space where people can drop in and hang out,’ adds Katrina.
Treading a fine line between being art hosts or art hostages and the centre of attention for curious passers by, their Bed-In may test their relationship to the limit. But artists rarely get to hear the comments made about their work and according to
enthusiasm for what sometimes sounds like a cross between an improvisational cabaret, a continuous hospital visit and a bedroom scene from an episode of Terry and June is infectious. ‘I do feel responsible to entertain,’ he says seriously, but Katrina won’t necessarily be as accommodating.‘| might just tell them to get out of our bedroom,’ she laughs. John Lennon wrote Give Peace A Chance during his Bed-In but these postmodern equivalents will probably be too busy getting pizza crumbs off the sheets or listening to their Walkmans to come up with any top ten hits.‘lt’s our pad for the weekend, friends are going to bring us food and drink and it’ll be like a marathon, four- day party.’ (Gill Roth) Bed-In at the Collective Gallery, Edinburgh 27—30 July.
62 The List 14-27 Jul 1995