Posted on the Cooper Gallery Blog: 
Monday, 21 November 2011


The Gallery Place.
Culminating performance.
Cooper Gallery
Dimmed lights, panorama of projections illuminates the gallery wall, red carpet stage divides the space. Bruce McLean directs from sideline, Adeline Bourret and Lore Lixenberg react to the action from off stage, on and back off again. Sam Belifonte conducts The Free Voice Choir, Emily Savage writes the script as the action occurs, drums continue to roll from stage right. David Barnett documents and replays the action live through projection.
Choir is brought front of stage.[1]
They confront us. An odd confrontation, considering choirs generally do just that, sing on stage, however at the gallery’s altar their presence is all the more evident. Some appear uncomfortable. We blink up at them, they down at us, from a wholly unfamiliar perspective. We considered them and them us, a group of artist sitting staring up at another group of artists. We consider them artists but what do they consider themselves?
Herein lays the ever churning concern, the creation of an art identifiable to everyone. Consider the agents of the work, the thoughtfully balanced headlining artists and their carefully contrived plans. In their words the work was designed for ‘unintentional intentionality’ and deployed it seems, in the spirit of non-hierarchical inclusiveness. Designer, Curator, Janitor, Sculptor, Musician, Actor, Agent, Viewer; what is the difference anyway? The choir know, but equally they are not sure either. Their enjoyment in the previous rehearsals was evident, as I have mentioned in my previous blog, particularly in the Botanic Gardens event. Their interaction was moving, integral to the beauty of the work, occurring in that place which was belonging to them as Dundonian’s. In the culminating performance they appear uncomfortable, however the lines are blurred between where the discomfort lies. Is it the choir that is feeling uneasy because of their positioning in the gallery space or that they become an art object in the gallery, or even that they are inside that place at all?  Is it the viewer (more so, viewer-spectator in the case of the culminating performance) uneasy at the choir’s presence in the gallery? A feeling of spectacle ensues. Yet another oddity when we consider the communally inclusive nature of a choir and of art ideally, one would expect us all to identify with each other more easily.
Do the choir know who the artists are? Certainly they do, by recognising the innumerable social signifiers we all conduct our social relations upon, but are the similarities between the two as apparent as we would hope them to be? Bruce McLean is a non-hierarchical individual. Artists can identify this. They recognise artist’s hierarchies but do the public? Did the public realise hierarchies were being attempted to be cast aside; you could deduce not only Social hierarchies but within that hierarchies of Place. Do you know if someone is important in a particular world if you do not know that world? Inevitably the creation of a publicly inclusive ‘Live Artwork’ leads to the subjectivity of its participants being given free agency, which is to be commended. However within the context of a predominantly insular art world, which places work in the somewhat enclosed walls of a gallery, the insertion of the public into that world as an integral part of the work, for good or for ill, feels odd. Ultimately this leads the artist to question how, why, and for who are we creating and why is it placed, in a ‘Place’ which is identifiable to a minority if we wish it to be identifiable to the majority?
Irit Rogoff questions ‘Can we actually participate in the pleasure and identity with images produced by culturally specific groups to which we do not belong?’ [2]
Here images are actions.

[1] The structure used here is normally employed in script writing. This is in reference to the live response of Beth Savage in the performance of A Cut A Scratch A Score, Cooper Gallery October 2011. Savage responded to the action of the performance live, which was projected onto the gallery wall, writing the script as the action occurred.
[2] Irit Rogoff, Terra Infirma; Geography’s Visual Culture. (Routledge. 2000) (30)

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