Notes from a Meeting - On Commissioning and Reconfiguring Risk [Day One Pt 3]
by Guy Mannes-Abbott
Highlights of other sessions included Samar Martha’s marshaling of interesting tales from the frontline of smaller organizations, including MASS, the space that Wael Shawky -Abraaj Prize Winner 2012- created from his old studio in Alexandria. Run on a shoestring, it’s now in its second year with twice as many students covering a wide age range. An inspiring story, presented by Daniella Rose King, I hope to watch it survive and flourish. This is when and how artists can generate step changes...
Shezad Dawood showed only sneaky glimpses of his existing and coming projects [in a presentation called Towards The Possible Film], many of which require working up collaborative networks in several locations to generate a single -albeit potentially serial- work. At the same time he argued that artists now need to be more critical in their taking up of residencies because “there is more at stake” in a world on the cusp.
Finally, James Lingwood delivered a notably coherent version of Artangel’s ‘Greatest Hits’. He didn't quite say it but looking at Artangel’s successes from here; 20 years since starting out, makes it all seem very easy/established. At least, the trail of major projects that we were looking at, from Rachel Whiteread’s House, through Jeremy Deller's Orgreave and Francis Alys’s London Walks, to Roni Horn's work in Iceland, did. A skeptical audience question drew mention of other kinds and scales of projects familiar to anyone like myself who lives close to the Central London projects on show. It's worth remembering that Artangel started in risk...
Lingwood’s final examples were of less harmonious productions, including an actual failed project. Catherine Yass’s attempt to film an actual high wire walk between Glasgow tower blocks without a safety net was unrealised because the walker found conditions demanded a retreat after only minutes on the wire. It had taken 2 years preparation to reach this moment and must have been crushing on the day, but Lingwood described it as “a beautiful and transcendent experience” that altered the nature of the project which “became about existential doubt and the need to understand failure...”
Finally he described the attempt to make a film about the years of Sarajevo’s siege which became two separate, though similar, films in the end. The two parts of 1395 Without Red were screened here on consecutive nights, the second outside on a fine if breezy night inside Bait al Shamsi which sits between Sharjah’s Museum building and the old harbour edge [and houses Sharjah Art Society studios]. I’ll return to this later, having interviewed one of the film makers, Šejla Kameric.
Day One was an invigorating sampling of many of the most exciting currents in contemporary art and described a potential world that I recognise. No-one enjoys withdrawing an artist’s work from exhibition and no doubt many lessons were learnt by many people from last year’s experience. As such, I'd caution against being dismissive of audience responses to work in the public domain when the work is itself context-heavy -at least for anyone who values intellectual consistency.
If the current highly generative ideas in the curatorial institution and the practices of a wide range of artists across the world are taken at face value then this relationship between commissioning agent or enabler, artist/s and audience which includes social contexts -that other form of residency- from street to neighbourhood, cultural and political constellations are all of a piece -often part of the piece!