Exhibition: Fabric Warehouse – Dematerial: Setting Up

by Beauchamp Art

The first thing that was necessary to do was to clear out the space, as when not hosting exhibitions, the room function as the storage area for the Fabric Warehouse. As I arrived first, I took photographs of how it was laid out, for reference for putting things back at the end of the show, then collected the equipment and pieces from the university and deposited them a corner. As the others arrived, we slowly moved everything into a section of the space away from the main exhibition area that was to be used for storing all of the Fabric Warehouse’s materials while the show is on. Though not everyone from the exhibition was available from the start of the day; there were still enough of us to get everything cleared before lunchtime, and set up by the end of the Friday.

Setting up Dematerial.

As people gradually arrived, we began to allocate spaces, though we had some indication from the visit to the space on Monday, and certain works had specific installation requirements that had been discussed previously.

Bethany and Elizabeth’s sculptural works required floor space, and although we ended moving Bethany’s work out of the corner, she had requested to by the two neighbouring pillars. After a few rearrangements, we managed to settle on a satisfying composition after she had left, with her permission to move the works as required, working with Elizabeth with whom we organised the show. Originally, she had planned to also include another window-mounted piece, however as some of Vladimíra’s work required the window, and they shared a similar space, along with some of Lara’s piece, this was unfortunately not possible. They were also mounted to the window using Vaseline, which work surprisingly well for a short period, though they were not securely attach and the adhesive quality began to fight against its lubricating quality, and so promptly had to go. It was also somewhat jarring with the aesthetic of some of the other works within the exhibition, so a certain amount of deliberate serendipity was also at play.

Elizabeth’s sculptural installation required a thoroughfare, and a long space that people could pass through and walk around, without obstructing access to other’s work or posing a tripping hazard. Initially position off centre from one of the walkways, her ground cloth was eventually centralised before having the plaster balls position on it. Indeed, as there were so many of these sculptures, a number of us (Elizabeth, Vladamira, Mattis, Bryony and I) assisted with transporting them from her studio to the gallery (which was conveniently close). As the plaster, orbs were thing and therefore rather delicate, a number broke in transit and handling, though enough survived for the show. Thus, the final composition of the objects was left to Elizabeth. Setting her and Mattis’ work near to each other also created a pleasing existentialist dialogue, his work featuring writings on futility, the broken shells-like forms embodying fragility of the material, and inevitable damage and failure. This also came through in Aaron’s Damage performance documentation images, my visually assaulting video, Vladimíra’s skin-prints, as well as Jamie’s depictions of individuals on the fringes of society, the homeless and the bedraggled. Indeed, collectively there seemed to be a theme of damage and decay emerging through a number of the works, hence the show was titled Dematerial.

Jamie positioned himself quite quickly in one of the small alcoves within the space, that was slightly separate from the other spaces, with a window and three walls, two of which he hung his works from, mostly using nails. He and Mattis organised the composition of his images, though centralising on of the larger images above an old bricked-up fireplace required slightly more assistance. Both of them had also taken it upon themselves to reorganise the storage area to increase ease of access for the Fabric Warehouse staff, though they ended up changing the layout again regardless of their efforts. Amongst the other works, Jamie’s works arguably featured the most traditional use of material by the use of the pencil drawing, the images aesthetically flattening the subject, furthering their dehumanisation. Set on the opposite wall to Vladimíra’s works, there is the potential for a contrasting juxtaposition of works relating to the figure that may come through subtly in the exhibition.

Mattis’s work was a very large single piece of paper with text on, so required the full length of the wall, as well as space either side of the piece to frame the work, so as not to impose too greatly on other’s work. After moving from a narrower wall to one of the longest in the space, adjacent to Elizabeth’s relatively sculptural installation, Mattis mounted his works in a similar fashion to a number of the other flat pieces, using clips and nails to secure them to the wall, with additional clips at the bottom to hold the paper down.

Lara had a number of pieces to choose from, her wall-sculpture required a fair amount of consideration for how it was to be displayed before having hooks attached and to be nailed to the wall. After much consideration, (mostly between Lara, Elizabeth and myself), it was decided that the piece worked best in its original orientation, positioned equidistant between two of the most spaced-out windows, hung in line with the central frame of the windows. As this was near Elizabeth and Bethany’s works, the sculptural works were effectively grouped together. Her three small paintings on board were broken into two groups, with two position together on one wall along from the windows, and the third slightly separate on an adjoining one, as two of the images complimented each other well, and the third stood on its own effectively, though were still displayed to be read as a triptych. Much as her three photographs were split into two groups. With the two portrait images position on a corner wall (originally were Bethany’s works where), with the third punctuated by another window, giving room to lead onto Vladimíra’s works without the wall feeling cluttered. It is worth noting that positioning works ‘at eye height’ is a rarely consistent given individual’s varying height, so using surrounding levels, such as the window frames, as references can provide a much more consistent aesthetic, though sometimes doing works ‘by eye’ can work just as well.

Vladimíra brought along a number of silk-screen prints on transparent media, so utilised the transparency of her works and the abundance of windows an natural to effect, attaching two works to the panelled window, framing the images effetely, and followed the arrangement of the other works mounted directly to the wall with transparent tape. Here the whiteness of the wall was paramount, as any texture on the surface of the wall below would affect the viewer’s experience of the work. However, after establishing an area for her to set up her works, she effectively decided what to include most efficiently, successfully selecting pieces that worked best in the space. The atypical lack of opacity to the surface of Vladimíra’s pieces relates implicitly to the bodily surfaces and textures, and read especially organically due to their pink colouring, and by being positioned near Bethany’s sexualised object, Lara’s photos of a white-washed body, and Elizabeth’s egg-shell like forms.

Charlie’s thread and nail drawings required an extended period for him to produces the works in place, positioning two between some of the windows of space, near the entrance, perpendicular to Aaron’s works. This also created an curious continuation between the two; as the nails embedded in the walls harmonised with the damage of Aaron’s works, especially with the images depicting cigarette burns. Given the time it took for his works to be made in place, it was useful that Charlie arrived early and could work on his pieces throughout the day, and be secure as to where he was to be position early on. As everyone was open about where they were displaying their work, then organising with the others was no too difficult. However, he did require a soft wall to hammer nails into, for his second thread drawing, this required him changing to shallower nails, though did not greatly affect the overall composition of the piece. Given the location of the gallery space was above the Fabric Warehouse, a domestic textiles shop, Charlie and Bethany’s work that involved a textiles element also seemed to work especially effectively within the Dematerial exhibition, without overstating the material connection. Also, as Charlie’s work is somewhat geographically informed by a fiction history of the local area, his work being show in this location within Norwich seemed especially fitting. After setting up his two nail and thread drawings on the Friday, he informed me that he was planning to make a third on Monday morning before the exhibition, to be complete before the private view. However, if he did not finish in time, it could provide for a sort of performance piece for the opening event, adding to his work and the exhibition over time.

Bryony’s work, like Mattis’ featured a single sheet of paper so displaying her work was straightforward, after attaching clips to the paper; the images were hung from nails. Her work featured multiple images displayed on a single sheet (as did one of my works), so she required a reasonable amount of horizontal space, and with having her own wall which the audience could move around easily, her work fit into the space most effectively. It would have been interesting to have had her and Aaron’s work near each other, as their both shared a figurative aesthetic, with hints at related themes, however, the connection between the two could still be drawn in spite of their difference (as both could be seen at once, if one was stood at the far end of the space). The materiality of the television image seems to be questioned through her work through the photographed screen, as well as the rewoven narrative of the film montage.

Aaron’s twelve images took a while to position on the wall he ended up using, after discussions with other members of the group. Elizabeth helped Aaron with settling on a composition that would work well within the space, having the images in the same orientation kept together, spacing the different performances slightly aware from each, so that it was clear that is was three separate performances as part of the same series. Each set featured four images, the first three of each showing the performance in progress, and the last of each showing the conclusion, in each case this final image was also distinguishable aesthetically, punctuating the grid of images.

Benjamin; as I was including two of my own works, I had to balance the organisational aspects and the need to display my own works effectively. As everyone willingly pulled their own weight, sorted out their individual displays working with others, and the supervisional assistance of Elizabeth, I believe I manage to find a way of exhibiting my own work whilst helping with everyone else. The first piece I had to deal with was my projected video, which had a few technical difficulties that meant it took longer to set up than I had originally anticipated. I collected all of my equipment at 9:30, to give me the most possibly time to get everything working. However, I had to return to pick up a pedestal later, and a replacement remote for the media player, most other aspects of my display seemed to go smoothly. I had decided on the space before hand, as it had to be one of the less illuminated areas. Nevertheless, darkening the space was not to difficult as the lights for the room were divided up into four sections, and one of these controlled the area where my work was, and no too much of other peoples’ spaces. Also, as there is a large amount of natural light coming through the windows (when the weather permits) there is a fair amount of ambient light that means that artificial light is not too necessary. I did have to project onto the opposite wall to that which I had intended, as the wall I was going to use was nearer the plug sockets, and to reduce the amount of trailing cables so that everything could reach the power supply I had to change position slightly. However, the wall I then was projecting on to then had some pleasing textures; plastered over brickwork that offset the very digital feeling video piece. Indeed, due to its heavily electronic aesthetic, the immateriality of the projected image did contrast with some of the other works in the exhibition, although I believe that questioning the materiality of digital image served as an effective counterpoint to a number of the other works. This should form a necessary discordance that harmonised with the aesthetic of Bryony’s images from films, and the unsettling nature of Aaron’s works. Although I have taken precautions to secure the projection and sound equipment, by having invigilating through the exhibit, I am still weary about leaving everything there in the open, so I may endeavour to cover everything more discretely in the future. Although being unable to modify the space to drastically, there are obvious limitations. Such as not being able to put the projector on a high shelf out of reach, using a short plinth in stead. However this rather pleasingly draws attention to the devices that manifests the immaterial image. Moreover, the speakers producing the sound; which could not be moved far from the projector due to the short length of the wire leading to the media player, which was especially frustrating, as that undermines the panorama of the sound that correlates to the split orientation of the video.

My other piece was a series of image displayed together, hanging from clips on the all, displayed together on a single sheet, in a similar manner to Bryony’s, again; sharing a similar style and theme as the video works, and the dematerialisation of the individual through digital representation; dehumanising in a contrasting way to Jamie’s homeless figure drawings. However, the original section of wall that I attempted to attach the pictures too was too hard to hammer nails in without them bending, which resulted in me having to reposition the images nearer the entrance. This was somewhat annoying, as this meant that upon entering the gallery the viewer is greeted by the sight of the projector in front of a blank wall, which is not entirely desirably, but somewhat unavoidable. However, due to the composition of the works, and the layout of the space with a wall through the centre, the audience can walk through the space seeing everything by going around the room once, though would hopefully go up to each work and examine everything fully.

We discussed the position of the refreshment table for the private view, as this tends to be were people spend the majority of their time, so if it at the furthest point from the entrance, people will be encouraged to look around everything, rather than glancing over and just going straight to the food. There also needs to be enough room for people to walk around the sculptural works, especially due to the fragility of Elizabeth’s work, which will become part of an auto-destructive performance at the private view (which may require a fair amount of cleaning after, given the carpeted floor, though the groundsheet should reduce this).

As Aaron, Bethany, and Elizabeth are currently in their third year, this exhibition helped provide an opportunity to experiment and test out means of displaying their work that may directly lead into their degree show pieces. For Charlie, Jamie, Bryony, Mattis and I, an exhibition is also a requirement as part of this unit, BA6, so this was especially useful for us. Moreover, for Lara and Vladimíra, who are both first year students, this provides them with an opportunity to show work outside of the gallery, possibly for the first time, and feeds into to their current unit that culminates in a student exhibition within the university. This involves a group of individuals whose work they may have little or no prior knowledge of, in order to establish a cohesive exhibition.

Though I do not usually act as a curator to other, as I was helping to organise this exhibition, I felt it was important to take on a directive role, and be more involved with helping other’s set up, be involved and communicating, as well as working on the documentation, promotion and publicity side of hosting an exhibition.

Most people were documenting setting up their own work, though Elizabeth and I also made sure to take photographs of the space as everyone was setting up together, and the changing composition of people’s work. For installing the works there was an abundance of nails, hammers, screwdrivers, a spirit level, tape measure, and a few other bits of equipment available for everybody to use, provided by various members of the exhibition group, so that everyone had what the needed to set up straightforwardly, though additional equipment specific works had to be provided by those individuals.

Another issue that was address was who and when was to watch over the show and answer the questions provide any members of the public who came to see the work during the exhibition period throughout the week. It was necessary to divide the invigilating into AM and PM shifts, so someone was in the exhibition at all times while it was open, from 9:30 until 13:30, and from then until 17:30, when the shop itself closes.

I shall be looking after the show and tidying up after the 12:30 lunchtime opening event. To decide who was to cover which shift, we sat around and discussed who was free when, and managed to get it all sorted swiftly, as well as the formatting for the exhibition information sheet to accompany the show. We settled on having a list with names, titles (if appropriate) and media/material.

Promotion was to be a collective effort, once a poster design was settled upon, after a few variations by Elizabeth, Vladimíra and I, the group decided that Elizabeth’s version of the poster best suited the exhibition. By using a minimal monochromatic aesthetic, we were able to keep printing costs down in creating a clear, effective, and professional looking poster that was collectively seen as the best of the option available. Given the time restraints, there was a limit intricacy of the design of the written materials, and something functional was all that was required.

In preparation for the private view, we gathered a small sum from each participant to go towards refreshments: food and drinks for the audience (and artists) to accompany the formal opening of the exhibition, in order to encourage viewers to stay longer and discuss the exhibition and its works. I was originally in charge of purchasing these on Monday morning; however, Elizabeth then took it upon herself to purchase them the weekend before, to avoid any rushing and allowing time for a more relaxed set-up. Some members of the exhibition group also going to bring along their own homemade food, though that is for them to organise.

Overall, I believe the Dematerial exhibition at the Fabric Warehouse came together effectively, with all problems minor and swiftly resolved. The connections between the works became evident during installation and discussion, rather than having to be forced onto the collection of works, or forcing others to awkwardly fit into a set theme. This can be problematic with open submissions, hence Elizabeth and selected the participants before hand, then screened the works, deciding what would work together from what they presented, then allowing them the freedom to establish their own space within the exhibition. I am looking forward to the private view, and hope it shall be well received and initiates interesting dialogues, and is an enjoyable experience for the audience. Despite some of the issues along the way, this exhibition has provided a useful experience for curating, organising, working with others to solve problems, in order to display my and other people’s work in a critical environment.

Dematerial materialised immaterial materials.