Stephen Forge @ Cactus


Emoji summary: 🙄 😳 😑

i want to start by saying: Liverpool, you are stressing me out. The scale of this city is such that any pointed criticism is not allowed for fear you will inevitably walk into that person on Bold Street and have to avoid eye contact and die. I know that it's hard not to value yourself based on what you produce, how well you produce that stuff, and how well it is received ~ but we would all do good to have some distance and not take criticism so life and death (read: personally, read: socially). Artists, a bad review does not make you less of a person. Critics, it seems u are prepared to be assertive and gobby in face to face conversation, but your published voice claims everything in the world is 4 stars and up… (and if it’s less than that you have to write under a pen name argh). Reviews are subjective, they are not law;;; a bad review should not result in a falling out;;; the person that writes one is not a bloody villain;;; am i ok to proceed

Stephen Forge has an exhibition called Downwards in Cactus. The gallery is an L shape and the main space is empty but in the small corner is a blue carpeted floor raised on a wielded support. You can walk on it. There is a gap in this floor through which you can see the metal grid it’s built over, and there is a plastered sock hanging on one of the bars of this structure. this is the art.

I got the ‘is that it?’ feeling of offensive minimalism. As Cactus has relocated from one side of the city centre to a new site of gentrification, for its introductory exhibition to be this bitterly abstract is irresponsible of both gallery and artist. Hard minimalism like this demonstrates the privileged gesture of the artist’s liberal identity. Here, it snubs the area’s low-income working class families whose housing stability, already precarious, will be stress-tested w the rising arts and culture value of the adjacent Baltic Triangle; inhabitants of which include Camp and Furnace, Liverpool Biennial’s offices, concept restaurant Xiringuito, The Royal Standard and Crown Building Studios have recently moved here, aaand there is something literally called Ghetto Golf. This makes me sweat because it’s where I grew up and where I still go every weekend to hang out at family headquarters. It’s funny thinking like, one time we were playing mario kart in the front room, and there was a drive-by shooting at the house opposite; the house next to my nan’s has a big bow on the door hiding a bullet hole. It looks quite good. I’m not sensationalising btw, I just want all the nice people moving to L8 to know whose area you are changing, n more specifically, to consider who gets to enjoy the culture you are producing.

Do you ever think about who is allowed to feel confident enough to walk into a gallery? Do you think about sharing? I do, bc I briefly took a trip to London and got myself into 50K of debt for a Fine Art degree, n I’m back feeling some type of way looking at this crusty sock in an exhibition in the ghetto. I feel guilty and ashamed by proxy. The problem is not about doing little, it’s what doing so little says about your positionality in relation to literacy, context, and narrative. The population in the surrounding area would recognise this installation as some coloured carpet and a sock. But with my cursed double-vision, it becomes the type of peripheral Rothko shit that just alienates. I know artists defend their right to make thoroughly formal work but if you’re gonna go there why is there no care in engagement and explanation, no press release cheat sheet, no outreach, no welcome. It infers the art here is for the art-inducted audience who are specifically educated and hardened up to this activity. It means the space is not for the people who have been there all along. The hard minimalism of this exhibition does not compensate the visitor (except it probably does here. With visitors being PV regulars, compensation is fulfilled because these people often fetishise whatever plane they find in a gallery space as another good background in their Instagram formation hm hm hm).

so im sad. Consider the context, consider the art, n then check Devon Forrester-Jones’ review of Downwards. She writes, ‘The carpet and plaster-encrusted sock both sit on the edge
of materiality and the human.’ ‘The sock, however, grounds you.’ It is reaching. I mean, semiotics is always inherently reaching but without any real guidance, criticism ends up like satire. The theoretical optimism in that review makes it feel like another moment in the ongoing circle-jerk of this scene. i die again. I need a glass of water. I wonder, do I hate art.

I did ask someone who went to the opening night what they thought of the exhibition and they showed me this picture on their phone, sent to them by someone else (v anonymous sentence but we are in Liverpool after all). it made me laugh anyway. it grounded me like a sock. at least I know I’m the not only one rolling my eyes @ this

a white cube gallery space with a raised blue floor that has a gap in it, and there’s a sock hanging over one of the bars revealed by the gap

an image of a sock at the end of a bed, caught around the bars of the bed frame