A hub: a device for complex remote meanderings.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013 posted on the Cooper Gallery Blog

Part two

of notes and thoughts from interactions with Edgar Schmitz’s Hubs and Fictions, A touring forum on Current Art and Imported remoteness, curated by Sophia Hao which traveled from the Cooper Gallery Dundee, to Baltic Center for Contemporary Art, Newcastle terminating in Goldsmiths, London.

Guy Brett (Writer/Curator, London)             Tom Morton (Writer/Curator, London)

Vanessa Joan Müller             (Curator, Cologne)

Wang Nanming                                                         (Critic, Shanghai) [1]

At the final event of Hub’s and Fictions at Goldsmiths in London, Vanessa Joan Muller (Curator, Cologne), spoke of various projects undertaken by the European Kunsthalle, of which she is academic director. The European Kunsthalle operates as a forum for the production of art work, in which the production of work is assigned as much importance as the presentation of the art work. She spoke of the ethos of the forum and how it strives to adopt some of the positive aspects of art in public space and use them to create something which acts as a new public space. The reasoning to this ethos struck home to me. Muller reasons; ‘there is no public space in big cities anymore, it is semi-public space, it’s all commercialised space, and (through their projects) people also get an awareness of what an art institution could function like, because most art institutions are some of the few spaces where people actually meet and talk, but most art museums are transformed into something shopping mall like, with a huge shop in the front, a cafe, a book store and then somewhere in the back you find the actual exhibition space.’ [2]

This idea of conceiving an institution, or a public space, for that matter, without an allocated physical space is highly provocative. It is difficult for a cultural institution or space to exist without all the trappings that usually sustain it financially, trappings which evolve to become the makeup of the institution itself. But in disregarding this, individuals could be enabled to communicate and organise remotely and collectively thereby existing in and of this world. Perhaps you could conclude that the only actual public space remaining is this virtual one from which you are reading- albeit a somewhat ephemeral and intangible one- which incidentally brings us back to Hub’s and Fictions.

The question put but not asked:

When cultural Hubs are increasingly suspended between local situations and broader milieus of displacement in a globalised setting, what is the potential of fiction? How do we articulate the relations that play out between gallery presentations, institutional aspirations and the ways they intersect with fantasies of elsewhere? And if exhibition making is inherently a form of narrative, what kinds of fiction or realities can it stage?[3]

For Hubs and Fictions the invited contributors were given this elusive, open-ended question as a starting point in considering what area of their interests they would talk about at the event. Email invitations detailing the area of interest with which the forum was concerned were sent, but not intended to hold the speaker to a decided response. The diverse array of speakers and their differing approaches to the questions that were put in email prior to the events – but interestingly not put again in public at the actual event – relates directly back to the exhibition Surplus Cameo Decor. In that the wide range of Cameo contributors from within the spheres of art, curation, criticism and film were invited to be present and just be themselves in the space, not particularly directed in which way to act.

The speakers differing reactions to these carefully considered words, thrown at a wall, are intriguing. They knew little of the physical exhibition Surplus Cameo Decor it seems, but for those who have experienced the exhibition, their discussions relate back to it. Here the speakers have responded to this invitation and spread out in their own directions of interest. We form the connections.

The audience knows nothing of the content of the exhibition either and their reaction to the events evolves as the juxtaposed speakers proceed in their musings. The audience probes in asking ‘did Hao and Schmitz as curator and artist want people to come and respond to the questions put by Hubs and Fictions or did they want them to come and respond as themselves?’
The invited speakers have already grappled with this problem. They frequently ask Schmitz ‘Am I answering your question?’ They each developed a way to react to the illusively suggested subject matter by drawing on their own practice and experience, sometimes unsure if that was the direction Schmitz wished them to proceed. In Schmitz’s deliberate juxtaposition of terms, people and disciplines, he highlights how interchangeable these understandings are.

Similarly I know little of the cameo performances. They were closed to the pubic – separate from the exhibition openings. I like the intimacy within this, it mirrors how often private conversation informs your own work. It is a continuation of an ongoing, private art-making process, continued in the open installed exhibition, generating future thoughts. The intangibility of this is intriguing. I orbited around, but was not privy to the event. It is as when one would wish to keep some things private- a conversation between those you are dying to talk to- these conversations were kept among the few invited to collaborate with the artist and curator. As if something important was needed to be said without the risk of diversion or being overheard. Talk freely.
At this final Hub’s and Fictions event we were given a glimpse of what went on in these Cameos-documentation of an event, not the same but hints, however the outcome of this is not known. The cameo events are exposed in a slide show of photographs projected on the wall of the lecture theatre in Goldsmiths. In it we saw the artist and cameos, in discussion, fervid then laughing, playing in the space.

The audience’s reaction to this not knowing is thought-provoking. Oddly Mark Twain’s novel ‘The Adventures of HuckleberryFinn’ springs to mind, particularly the chapter during which two con men convince people that they are the Dauphin and the descendant of the King of England. They convince the assembled crowd, gathered to view a performance, of this magnificent fiction because there is no way for them to perceive fact- no readily available historical certainties to disprove the con men. In their meanderings the audience gathered at Goldsmiths, questioning as they try to piece together this complicated Hubs and Fictions evokes for me the various complications of constructed narratives as in this scene from famous fiction.

There are no con men here but artists; so what is the truth to be exposed? It seems only that we wish to expose more truths; however, what are truths but fictions on which a consensus has been decided?

[1] List of speakers for the final event, carefully chosen to provoke discourse, as one would throw words at a wall, here the words arranged to suggest a wall structure.
[2] Vanessa Joan Muller, transcriptions from Hubs and Fictions, Goldsmiths, London Dec 6th 2012.
[3] Question emailed to the invited speakers by Sophia Hao curator of Hubs and Fictions and the exhibition Surplus Cameo Decor, by the artist Edgar Schmitz, Cooper Gallery 2012.

A former MFA student at DJCAD, Sinéad Bligh is an artist currently based in London. https://twitter.com/SineadBligh