Friday 08 February 2019 – Tuesday 31 December 2019
Image: Fiona Campbell
Artist Fiona Campbell reports back from a one-day symposium that examined curatorial practice in relation to sculpture with a specially invited panel of international curators, at Hauser & Wirth Somerset on 6 July.
Lucy Askew – Senior Curator, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh
Cathleen Chaffee – Chief Curator, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York
Ruth Estévez – Independent curator, writer and stage designer, Mexico City & Los Angeles
Samuel Leuenberger – Founder & Director of SALTS, Birsfelden; Curator, Art Basel Parcours
Li Zhenhua – Independent curator, artist and producer, Beijing/Shanghai
‘Art is hard, sculpture is harder, sculpture outdoors is harder yet’ – Stephen Feeke (Chair, Director of New Art Centre, Roche Court)
Exploring the Third Dimension explored different models of display, with reference to cultural activism, education and engagement with three-dimensional artworks, and invited questions such as how we might think differently about sculpture as a category. During the symposium, each of the curators presented for 10 minutes, followed by 20 minutes of discussion with the full panel, chaired by Stephen Feeke, Director of the New Art Centre. This was followed at the end by a full panel discussion, bringing in feedback and questions from the audience.
Coffee and lunch were provided, giving the opportunity to talk to other delegates.
Samuel Leuenberger: ‘All encounters with artworks today are a sculptural experience’. Leuenberger’s presentation focused on his projects at Parcours, Art Basel and SALTS, a Swiss not-for-profit space. I found the work intriguing. Sound emanating from gutters of cats howling and people having sex. Visitors were intrigued, and the work creates discussion. One year he avoided the conventional monolithic sculpture in the square in favour of a low-key performance which was only discovered when buying a ticket. ‘Art in public space is much more than sculpture in a square’. He explained his thoughts on installation versus intervention. A fan of Jessica Stockholder, I was interested in her abstract work quoted as an example of ‘assist’ sculpture needing a support to lean on.
Askew presented on artist Christine Bertand’s bio-morphic works, for a project commissioned by Newcastle Organ Institute. Smooth creamy casts of the interiors of Barbara Helpworth’s sculpture were reminiscent of organs. Art and healing was discussed.
Ruth Estevez mixes her practices, ‘blurring the distinction between landscape and architecture’. Estevez sees architecture as ‘a living organism’. She transformed a hotel space using curtains as flexible dividers, suggesting in turn the clinical, theatrical, transparency. The performances used only objects in the exhibition. I liked her concept of humbleness in collaboration. How craft and sculpture needs no distinction, the way she collapses boundaries.
Cathleen Chaffee dedicated her talk to Tony Conrad and the Yellow Movies Project. His work involved films, performance, media, surveillance, the absurd: ‘We all dwell in jails of our own making... no chains were broken by simply pretending they were not there.’ Her focus and talk were engaging, non-egocentric.
Li Zhenhua’s presentation was simple, elegant, human. The first of his three stories began with the statement ‘no live chickens allowed in Bejing’. He showed installations with live animals, activist works. He then described a very sad story about a rooster used in an artwork that was killed by its fellow roosters on its return. Other work included Roman Signer’s umbrallas in the sand. He feels it essential to get to know the artists.
Panel discussions revolved around curatorial practice. The audience questioned the direction of sculpture. They discussed public engagement and the move towards how work is received rather than produced. The sentiment often expressed was ‘media specificity is no longer relevant’.
Time for questions at the end was limited. I was too late with my question, but afterwards asked Li to express his thoughts about the issue of wellbeing and sustainability. Would he work with a live creature again or did the rooster’s death result in a change of rules for him? We discussed the fact that ‘art is just the messenger’ bringing issues into the open. Unethical scientific experiments are often hidden away.
It was very insightful to learn about varying ideas, practices and approaches from international curators involved in numerous high profile projects.
– Fiona Campbell, July 2018
Friday 08 February 2019 – Tuesday 31 December 2019
Stonehenge Visitor Centre, Amesbury, Wiltshire SP4 7DE
Friday 24 May 2019 – Sunday 24 November 2019
Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery, Queen Street, Exeter, Devon, EX4 3RX
Tuesday 18 June 2019 – Sunday 15 March 2020
Working towards a South West where talented artists thrive, and a resilient and connected visual arts ecology that inspires more engaged and diverse audiences to value and advocate for its work.
Part of the Contemporary Visual Arts Network