Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

Double Agent

June 2, 2008

            The Mead Gallery at the Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry, often brings innovative and informative art exhibitions into what I consider to be one of the best open plan gallery spaces in the UK. It is currently exhibiting ‘Double Agent’, a collection of works by 7 artists whose works are based around adjusting the focus of creation and perception away from the artist onto other people. In spite of the idea being familiar to many art lovers and is ground often covered, the collection is able to invigorate various methods of performance and display to raise old questions about performance and authorship of art.

            Upon entering the first of three spaces, one notices how widely spread the exhibition is, perhaps a little nod to this being the viewers stage. Particular praise goes to Dora Garcia. Her contribution ‘Instant Narrative’ involves a subject sitting in room 1 and typing out what they see as people enter the room in their own narrative voice. This is then projected onto a wall in the next room for the subject to read. This is an exhilarating idea, firmly placing the gallery viewer as the exhibit but what keeps the subjects interest is the live aspect of the artwork. The continually changing screen of sentences makes for a fresh exhibit and undoubtedly connects the viewer with the collection around them. Another well executed idea Joe Scanlan’s presentation of artist Donelle Woolford. With a makeshift studio built inside the gallery, Woolford works on new projects and artwork before the viewers eyes, engaging with audiences members and allowing Scanlan to reach to his audience in a truly hands on manner.

            Not all the artists hit the mark quite as precisely as these two. Artus Zmijewski’s film ‘Them’ may be a brilliant piece of film concerning contrived conflicts in an artistic space, but is simply too long. As one of the first exhibits people see, it will keep the viewer tied to a bench for 27 minutes to watch the film in its entirety. With 3 other video presentations to view, patience unfortunately wears thin over this very interesting film. Pawel Althamer’s sculptures seem to tell no story, and do not seem to fit amongst this largely thought provoking exhibition.

            What really separates this collection from others I have seen on the same subject is the interactive element. As well as ‘Instant Narrative’ and Woolford’s studio, the third room is a play space for workshops being run on Saturday’s for school children to come and involve themselves with the artwork. Even the children become the artist, proving that the often-overlooked amalgamation of fun activities and tutoring of art does work. This is engaging children at the right level of artwork, and blows The Tate Modern’s exhibiting of Carsten Holler’s ‘The Unilever’s Series’ right out of the water and showing it for the head counting, gift shop filling exhibition it was. While it may not seem to be as much fun as a slide, children are getting an experience of interacting and affecting professional artwork here that they may not normally have.

            ‘Double Agent’ is an old idea done well. My advice, if you want to pay a visit to the Mead Gallery or at one of the other stops on the tour, is to take an hour out of your day and watch the video presentations and really engage with the material. This is not passively looking at pictures or sculptures, but a chance to immerse yourself in art. As you become the subject, the least you could do is give this well thought collection time of day.