WHAT I SAW THIS WEEK: 20th MARCH
but people have often asked if there was a way for me to make the friday gallery school trip days more permanent than 24 hours – understnadably. i imagine it’s useful and actually q nice to see a lil round up of what’s on, a tantalising sneak peek of what you could be doing with ur weekend etc, or actually j having something to refer back to RE: what’s on. but instagram is where things go to die, no offence Mark Zuck (full offence actually).
so maybe baby it is worth starting a new series on TWP blog? where I round up the things I’ve seen a la Friday gallery school trip. maybe i will have thoughts i can repeat or expand on here, maybe they will j be lil bullets w piccies of what i saw. but i think it’d be NICE to monumentalise all the SHIT i see, so at least my TFL card charges are tax deductible to the max max max. also nice to feel like all my stomping is worth it beyond the 24h that stories stick around for. nice for you to not feel the immediate pressure of watching and recalling. i love the blog!!!
last week (w/c 20th Feb) i was a busy lil bee. came back to london and wanted to hit the ground running on a chapter for the book so i fell into my laptop screen and didn’t fall back out until 6pm friday evening. I don’t regret it, i got loads of work done, i still saw friends and spent time w my lil sister (hello umara, i lov u). i j didn’t consume much culture.
1. at the weekend i did go and see R.I.P. Germain’s show at the ICA: Jesus Died For Us, We Will Die For Dudus!
before i went, i was chitchatting with Gab. we both loved his show, Shimmer, at Two Queens in Leicester. I went to see it and felt like !!! excitement! aesthetic thrill! i reviewed it and documented my excitement and feelings. we wondered if this ICA show would be different, diff work, diff feels diff thoughts around the execution. that was the base we moved from.
the show at the ICA was different work – similar intention and vibe, but the work felt like a parallel, same kinda thing.
at the front desk i was handed a business card with a code and song lyrics and a QR code. i was instructed on how to use it.
in the lower gallery there was a similar thing; a non-descript looking building in the gallery. graffiti on the side, neon lights with flame emojis and a camel emoji. a room with boxes and a clothes rail. a panelled off alcove with a peep hole. another room with bits and bobs, holes in the wall, shelves with objects, piles of stuff. then a door with a keypad. same as 2queens. beyond the door was a grow room, music playing (pusha T hehehehe) and bags of stuff: fertilisers, chemicals, baggies, fans. the xbox controller in the corner was attached to screen that wasn’t working. the door was open when we came in, but i was Aware that there should’ve been an air of mystery and discovery about this all. so i closed it and realsied that the keypad was actually broken and the door was just unlocked.
the upper gallery was new and different. the corridor was lined with heavy navy blue curtains. the first room had a suspended ceiling built in, dark and carpeted. in a glass case, a mannequin with matching trackie set that said SECURITY in flame writing. a film was playing: Aitch at a luxury jewellery shop, shopping n lounging, vaping in his grey trackies. lad i fancy material, but that’s neither here nor THERE! there was no audio, i didn’t feel the need or want to linger. next room past the glass mannequin case was the same: carpeted, curtained, suspended ceiling and relative hush. a glass topped jewellery case with heavy chains, a jesus piece with a print out: the artist’s whatsapp chat with the jewller, asking for the Jesus on the chain to be a caucasian tupac (lmao) – other bits of jewellery. i think it was real because there was an uncle sat at the desk. i got chatting to him, expecting him to be holding onto some kind of secret next level, some sleight of hand. he was there to watch the case. that was all the room had to offer.
i don’t think i liked this show at the ICA anywhere near as much as the two queens show. i’m disappointed by my dissapointment, it feels misplaced. i feel BAD! about my disappointment – it’s like i wanted to like this show, but couldn’t find my way to satisfaction.
the show at 2queens was complicated, layered. it was tasking and demanded things of me. i walked into the front room: the newsagent front, and the cards were scattered over the floor. i had to put 2&2 together to figure out how to open up the next room. i had to use my brain and engage with what the work was asking of me. at the ICA the card was handed to me and i was given detailed instruction on how to use it. i became a passive viewer, the room around me wasn’t an environment i had to navigate – it was a piec of art that i could look at, observe, behold. i was a spectator rather than an agent.
it’s complicated bc obvs, idk how much of this disappointment and feeling is intercepted by the fact i saw the show at 2queens, maybe that ruined my expectations of what was possible at a gallery like the ICA. maybe it’s also to do with tech and install: it’s not the artist or the gallery’s fault that the xbox and the door keypad were broken when i went. shit happens over the course of an exhibition being open, wear and tear. if i’d seen it at the press preview, i would’ve had a perfect well hosted interaction witht he work and i imagine i’d have come away with a different impression.
it’s also complicated bc: i liked the show at 2queens BECAUSE it didn’t reveal its entire self to me without asking me to unravel it. the show at 2q was like an escape room, i had to open doors, punch in codes, figure out how things were meant to be used and engaged with. i came out the 2q room the first time and realised I’d only played half the game. i went back for another run at it, aware that i’d not had a full interaction. idk if you can have that kind of interaction and lack of openness at a gallery like the ICA. people would complain! the ica has a different audience of visitors to 2queens – that just is what it is. idk if they’re able to hold onto or facilitate work where there is such a variable viewing experience (depends on so many things: who the viewer is, how they feel on the day and are they distracted, what kind of culture they’re exposed to and what they know about, how much are they willing to engage with and be complicit in the work’s agenda to demand beign unravelled in the first place). does that even work as a demand at the ica! do they, as a gallery, have more of a duty to explain and open doors for their visitors – are they MORE PUBLIC ?? fundamentally, is my question. not that the PUBLIC can’t handle complicated or complex work, difficult demanding work. but just that that kind of interaction with the public has to be more intimate, and the ICA sees more foot traffic, that kind of facilitation isn’t really possible for each and every visitor – unless oyu do the explaining at the front desk as you hand over the stickers and take the payments.
the person i visited with was kind of bemused by it all. i’d described the show as ESCAPE ROOM, FUN, ENGAGING, COOL, GOOD WORK that would be a good use of our time, and part of me felt like i’d taken them to a room where we just looked at stuff – not that that can’t be any of the things i’d described, but it just wasn’t what we experienced. like i felt like i’d oversold it all. that’s on me, my expectations and preconceptions. but afterwards, chatting about what we’d just seen, they mentioned that there was something, some energy or anticipation that got built. the work in the lower gallery was heightened and mysterious. it held on to a secret that never landed. the upper gallery was j rumbling on at a level that didn’t match that heightened energetic feeling we built downstairs. all in all, it felt like the energy built and then popped, punctured. it went nowhere. i guess that’s the size of my disappointment with this show. it build secret, mystery, energy and anticipation — feeling that didn’t really travel anywhere, have any peak or climax. no point where that feeling landed adn we Experienced something. tbh i think that’s kinda the point i’m tryna get at here? that the show didn’t really know what we were meant to experience within it. i think that’s j about the scale of it all.
having said all of this, i still feel a real tenderness for the artist. i have care and all the time in the world for their work. i believe in their work and i don’t think me not enjoying their show is a lack of belief in that work. i don’t NEED to say this bc we all know a Bad Review TM isn’t the end of the world, not negative all that big chat etc. but i j want to disclaimer n say it all the same. i’m surprised i have this much to say about it all! kinda feel like i should save this for a formal review (but i know the blog is the right place to leave these feelings. formal review feels like the wrong container for my disappointment or lack of satisfaction RE: this show. i only say this all softly.)
the ica show had really good production value, but with no centre, it just became things in a room to behold. (rather than experience, engage with, activate). not that the work HAD to be experiential, engageable or even active. i just think that the politics of beholding didn’t quite match up what i know the artist, R.I.P. Germain is actually interested and invested in doing.
it’s ok, i think it’s still work/a show worth putting on. i j think galleries the size of the ICA need to learn how to negotiate n figure out how to host work that IS complicated, differential in experience or outcome, how to work an audience’s interaction with all that chunky feeling. sometimes galleries like the ICA feel like clunky containers for every and all art interactions. no such thing as a universal museum/gallery/experience etcccc. i think also, a show like this would probably be a really good learning curve for any artist going thru the tunnel of it all – i think artists deserve room to take risks, try new things, paste things over in a way that’s not necessarily the way things are usually done. making that jump of scale requires different approaches, diff skills and diff working out. artists have to learn how to rig their work for a different kind of display and exchange. so that’s something this show would’ve inevitably done for R.I.P. Germain, regardless of whether i actually liked it. me liking it is kind of inconsequential – which is why, even tho the length of this quick blog has surprised me, i’m not convinced this needs to be a Formal Review.
ok i wrote that all in one sitting. i will not be going back to edit it or even proof read, so you simply have to firm it if it doesn’t make sense/if there are typos. i sincerely hope the future WHAT I SAW THIS WEEK posts are NOT this long. i should HOPE SO! here are some pics as a reward for mkaing it thru this far.