First Impressions…

Wake/Archipelago Opens: First Impressions

By Susanna Byrne

I decided to begin this – the first in a series of reports as the six weeks progress during Wake/Archipelago’s occupation at CGP London – with my overall impressions following an initial circuit of the Café Gallery and Dilston Grove yesterday.

This is my first visit to Southwark Park, which plays host to the distinct venues. I enter the Café Gallery with no preconceptions of scale or layout of the building that will house each artist’s camp/territory in the concept envisioned by artist Gary Stevens.

For those familiar with the gallery, on the whole it may appear no different to any other group show, as each artist is maintaining a polite distance from the other ‘islands’. Even those artists present making work-as-performances in their allocated territory are currently respectful of their neighbours.

But, we are invited to visit the space throughout the occupation to see this change: although no signs so far, we may yet witness or perhaps be party to negotiations or a battle for another’s artistic space.  But, if we are absent, will there be any trace of those who succumb?

There are a few exceptions to the current harmony with occasional incursions of sound: most notably in a room adjacent to the larger space with two artists vying for attention and another sited in the entrance infiltrating the entire gallery with intermittent bursts of song.

Conceptually, some battle-lines are clearly drawn already with overlapping themes and materials:  red sequin funnel vs. red papier-mache lips vs. red wool unraveling. Birds also trend – duck and crow lo-fi avatars – requiring poetry and stories, some of which are then conveyed to their harbingers in the park outside. And, the human folk bird.

Whilst the archipelagos are evolving in the Café Gallery, over at Dilston Grove, a solo performance is deftly interrupting the tranquility of the former chapel and quietly staking a claim to the space before a new artist resident seeks ownership next weekend. As the work mysteriously unravels from the balustrade, the atmosphere is almost reverential until a visiting child shatters this, striding forward to grab and tease the growing mountain of yellow ribbon.

I will return later this week, to follow up in more detail on specific works as well as endeavouring to trace the developing narratives.


Image: Close up of Caroline Wilkinson’s Audience Chamber (2011). Photo by Laura Milnes

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