For this particular project, we worked as a whole group to create a participatory exhibition which would take place outside and within the studio.
For inspiration I looked at artists who worked with participation such as Marina and Ulay Abramovic and Tino Sehgal. Marina and Ulay created a performance piece in 1977 called the “Imponderabilia” (Fig 37) where they stood naked within a doorway of a gallery and people had to participate in order to walk through the doorway. When walking through the participants have to make a decision on who they face. Marina also performed “The artist is present” (Fig 38) in 2010 in a museum where she would sit in silence at a desk and people would participate by sitting in front of her for a period of time in silence. A lot of her work is about isolation, rules, control, drama and permission.
For this project, as a group we also looked at art fairs to get an idea of how we could lay out our exhibition. We looked at fairs such as FRIEZE (Fig 39) , ZOO, Sunday, Sluice and Cave and how they work in terms of the artists renting out a space, the public being able to attend and the purchasing of the artwork.
As our exhibition was about participation, we wanted the atmosphere to be quite fun and bright, so we called the exhibition “Boum“ which is the French word for party. Certain small groups worked together to create simple poster designs and stickers which represented the exhibition with bold shapes and colours (Fig 40). For the exhibition, we had to create a participatory artwork each which would run on the day. The artwork could be anything from performance to painting and we had to consider how it would be managed on the day.
For the participatory exhibition ‘Boum’ I created an artwork called ‘Lens’ (Fig 41 & 42). My artwork was positioned in a small room on its own on the second floor of the space so that participants could concentrate. Upstairs altogether there was also 3 other artworks taking place with another on the stairs which brought up many of the audience members I had. Although my artwork seemed out of the way I did altogether get 29 people to participate which I felt was a good result although I may have had more if I was positioned with more of the artworks.
My artwork required me to be present the whole time in for it to work as I had to make sure my scientific glasses were not taken and that my participants knew how to use them and what to do. I also had to take photos of the process and take notes of the descriptions they were given. I stayed in my space for the whole opening of the exhibition (other than small breaks) making sure I asked passer-by’s if they were interested in taking part. I found that many of the audience of the exhibition were very interested in what my artwork was and wanted to use the scientific glasses, many others were also interested in seeing the previous descriptions I had placed up on the wall in the room as well.
When taking pictures of my participants I made sure they signed my consent form before doing so and never took a photo of any who asked not to. For my artwork I also created a small description which I placed on the door of my room which explained my use of a science theme and a brief explanation of what was taking place, however I left out what I wanted my audience to be thinking of when taking part which I felt worked well and in conjunction with many of the other artworks in the exhibition too.
Altogether I got very positive responses from participants and observers about my artwork. Many people who took part felt moved by the new ‘other worldly’ scenes they were seeing which was an aim I had for my project. However in some cases, when participants used things such as printed cards or iphones, a detailed image was sometimes hard to find. In future I may look into suggesting the use of more organic objects to use to get a more desired effect. I also documented my artwork well with photos and writing which I can archive for future use.
After the Boum participatory exhibition, we had an archive show within Plymouth College of art where we each submitted something which represented either the outcome of our piece or the piece itself. For mine, I submitted my scientific glasses, along with a selection of the most interesting written outcomes from my participants. My archived piece was Placed within a cube shelf where I stuck the participants descriptions on around the wall, replicating a smaller version of my piece ‘Lens’ in Boum. I felt that the archive was a nice way to round off the exhibition, and for many people who participated it was a nice way to return to the show and see images and notes etc which were taken on the day.
(See Appendix G for more images and information)
By Kath Howard (2013)