A Step into the Unknown…

Photo by Teresa Noble
A Step into the Unknown

By Laura Milnes 

Trainee Producer Laura Milnes tests her mettle as she crosses the breach into unknown territory while working on two unidentified [flying] projects.

So I admit that you may have been misled by the “flying” reference. As a trainee producer at Artsadmin I’ve had a fair few unusual encounters and supported the creation of some far out stuff but nothing that’s aerial bound… yet. The unidentified projects I’m referring to are WAKE and ARCHIPELAGO, two exhibitions, both of which opened last weekend and will run until 17 July. Yet again, I mislead you somewhat in that these two parallel shows involving 21 artists and 2 curators are not completely “unidentified”. The concepts, curators and artists behind them have very distinct and different identities. The unknown comes in the shape (or lack thereof) of the work that makes them. The thing is, this could well be the producer’s nightmare – two shows, two galleries, multiple artists, and 21 possible and very much unidentified outcomes. To a logical beast who feeds on practicalities, spreadsheets, clarity and bullet points, the word unknown could quite possibly strike fear into the inbox of my mind. Yet somehow it doesn’t. In fact, quite the opposite, it is a welcome (if terrifying) prospect to be faced with.

You can find the official blurb about the shows on this blog and on the Artsadmin website. Of course, most importantly I urge you to see the works for yourself but just in case you were wondering, here’s my own rundown of the two shows and why I love working on them:

In WAKE six artists succeed each other in weekly residencies in Dilston Grove (a magnificent ex-church, now gallery space). Curator/artist Anne Bean began a chain reaction of creation last weekend with her durational piece, resulting in an enormous, glimmering heap of ribbon, totaling 100km in length. Each artist (chosen by their predecessor) responds to the work left behind, creating a conversation into the past and future using materials as the dialogue. It’s a rare opportunity to take a ramble through the imaginations of six very different artists, each responding not to a common theme, but to each other.

In ARCHIPELAGO, fifteen artists have invaded the more conventional exhibition space of Café Gallery – this time all at once. Since last week they have inhabited their own islands, all of which float in the same spatial soup of the white-walled gallery in the centre of Southwark Park. Curator (and apparent mischief-maker) Gary Stevens has allocated their territory, as might be expected in a group show. The difference is, the artists have the opportunity to change, develop or destroy their piece throughout the course of the exhibition. A lack of rules gives them the freedom to grow and to encroach on a fellow artist’s space, to steal, to declare war, to trade or to mimic. Or to do anything they please, so long as they are willing to accept the consequences…

So, both exhibitions are about the relationships between the artists and the space, despite being rather different experiments in the potential limitlessness of curating. The overall basic theme is that none of us have any idea what these guys are going to pull out of the bag. A work may well begin as a painting and end as a song, set out to be a conversation and turn into an object, be born as a video and grow up to be a performance. Of course, we know a little more now, having seen what took place last weekend but we can’t predict what will happen next and there are nearly five more weeks in which to be ambushed by entirely new directions. Like arch-art-detectives we, the audience (and the producers) will extract a little more information each week and follow the trail of visual clues.

If you didn’t see what took place during the opening weekend, you can follow the developments on this blog, where there will be updates from bloggers, pictures, written responses and more. There are also links to previous works by the artists, to give you a hint of what you just might be able to expect. Although I wouldn’t put any money on it just yet, you never know what’s round the corner in Southwark Park.

Have a look at some images by Hydar Dewachi of WAKE (at Dilston Grove) and ARCHIPELAGO (at Café Gallery) so far on the Artsadmin website. This article is also published on Artsonline, where you can follow both exhibitions as they develop.

Image: WAKE Week One – Anne Bean. Photo by Teresa Noble.

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