[innum— Fusing bright sparks
Traditional divisions between artist,
art and art lover are being demolished in a show nestling in a new Glasgow exhibition space, as John Beagles discovers.
Throughout the history of art. strenuous institutional attempts have been made to deﬁne and separate the disciplines of artistic culture. Throughout the Enlightenment. arguments raged over the relative value of different genres of painting. while this century. ﬁerce disputes have been prompted by the exhibition of urinals and bricks. and closer to home. piles of sweets at Glasgow's Tramway.
The changing deﬁnitions of objects and the forces governing whether we prize them as high art or ignore them as trash. are explored in dept:rtm'eurriml. a collaborative show in an innovative Glasgow exhibition space.
Drawing on a history ofexhibitions and practices that have demolished artistic boundaries. from Rennie Mackintosh to Warhol and The Velvet Underground. the show is based on ‘the way in
Breaking down the barriers: Untitled by Kate Drummond from departurearrival
which new media has led to the disintegration of those boundaries. which rigidly deﬁne the practices of artist's. It aims to ‘create a space where artists and designers can redeﬁne the categories that surround their work.’
Every aspect of gallery organisation is up for grabs in this group show with a twist. Working
collaboratively. all nine artists. with backgrounds in design. ﬁlm. painting. music and installation. have for two months been involved in all areas of the show‘s construction and publicity. The usual divisions of labour. where. for example. designers provide only the publicity material —just think how frequently the posters are the best things about shows — have been ignored. The hope is the resulting exchanges of expertise and knowledge will reap rewards.
Aiming to construct an alternative space deviating from the normal gallery experience. the group has dispensed with the quasi-religious observance of the whiter than white walled space. the prohibition against touching the objects and most importantly for the artists. the curatorially enforced separation of their disciplines. Whereas most group art shows legislate against the inclusion of designers or typographer's. maintaining an autonomy of form. this show actively encourages the problems of artistic evaluation that come with the overlapping of practices.
The show's stated ambitions are impressive. The artists' commitment and enthusiasm towards pooling their collective talents to create a radically rethought alternative exhibition space is positive and encouraging. However. there is always the danger that focusing too exclusively on changing the
' gallery's formal and organisational aspects can mean i neglecting the need for the work to challenge the
authorised artist-artvvork-viewer relationship. Failure to do so can smack of tokenism. as when furniture is
displayed. but any attempt to use it is ﬁrmly chastised
by gallery attendants. if this problem is ignored . the visitor is left with the equivalent of a shop with a revolutionary design —
imaginative lighting and displays — but standard products. prices and customer purchasing powers. ' (lepurturem'rr'vu/ is at ()4 Queen Street. (ilusgmr' until
Photographer Beat Streali describes himself as fitting the stereotype of the ‘sober Swiss protestant discovering the outside world with awe’. His art is slightly voyeuristic, employing two different tools - the paparazzo’s telephoto lens and a dispassionate photo-journalist’s eye. With these Streali catches unawares the pedestrians of major cities as they march purposefully as individuals, dawdle in handhelding couples or latter in untethered groups. As one critic put it: ‘Beat Streali’s vision reveals the colour, texture and rhythms of the city in daylight - a living, vibrant organism.’
The Swiss-born photographer began using pedestrians as subjects in the 80s, creating his first series of collages from the streets of Home,
Paris and New York. ‘I began to photograph cities because they are repositories for everything that interests me - people, language and obiects,’ says Streali. ‘In my early ; work i combined these elements in a 3 rather systematic way. Eventually I came to realise it sufficed to look around in the street.’
For his first British ‘portrait of the city’, Streali has chosen to cast his freeze-frame eye over Glasgow’s urban shopping precincts where he tried to merge into the background of Buchanan, Argyle and Sauchiehall Street precincts. ‘l was really very pleasantly surprised at what a lively E place Glasgow is,’ he says of his two- I
week stay. ‘Geographically, it reminded me of American cities like Boston and Chicago, with the old warehouses and merchant city.’ 2 However, it was the stylish city’s ‘beautiful youths’ patrolling the shopping precincts that made the deepest impression. ‘I was surprised at the number of teenage kids - seemineg thousands - who gathered from the suburbs in the city centre,’
Rather than present a moving image of the uniform masses, Streali seeks to home in on the tiny social exchanges and signals performed unconsciously by the oblivious passers-by, unaware of the telephoto lens tracking them as they window shop, chat to pals or carry out the mundane routines of urban life.
Beat Streali: walk on by
Fittingly the plan is for these images to then be projected onto building fronts from one of the shopping streets throughout the night, thus allowing the subjects of the work to view themselves in their own environment. (Ann Donald)
For further details of Beat Streali call fetofeis at 20 Wilson Street, Edinburgh, 0131 555 0343.
70 The List 20 Oct-2 Nov 1995