Adie Blundell – Herbert Museum and Gallery I went into this exhibition with no prior knowledge or expectation of the artist, beyond him being in the same studio building as someone I know. The work itself is good and intriguing, I liked it more than I expected. However I felt the display in the space did it a disservice, strangely the work should have fitted well into the institution, but did not as it was treated a little too much like art in places and like interpretative display in others. My biggest grip was with the labelling which had silhouetted pictures on them to help you identify each one and a large bold type telling you not to touch, despite the objects being several feet away beyond the museum issue ropes. These signs were clearly there as the last item in the clockwise sweep of the gallery encouraged you (in small, regular font) to open the drawers of a cabinet. Here you could views books of contextual interest and see some of Bundell’s drawings behind glass. In short the objects you were least likely to want to touch in the whole gallery.
Ok so gripe aside, the work stood up. The artist clearly has the mindset of the amateur chemist, archaeologist or inventor, a Heath Robinson type of figure. He also appears to revel in the alchemical, ordinary objects have been transformed and distressed and battered, extraordinary objects have been saved. The cabinet of curiosities exudes over all the work, in fact against the back wall the artist has assembled some of his own. Opposite sit a row of 9 proud vulture masks the artist has created, each has the feel of something from an early Jean-Pierre Jeunet movie. My favourite piece featured a rather fine wooden ladder with a pair of feet halfway up, severed mysteriously from the absent body. Something apocalyptic appears to have happened to them as a weird calcification has infested each of them.
I have just finished reading Alasdair Gray’s book, Poor Thing. This is a re-imaging of the Victorian novel, in line with Frankenstein or Dr. Jeckel and Mr Hyde, with plenty of post-modern flourishes. In the book a Dr. has apparently brought a suicide corpse back to life with the brain of the unborn foetus in the pregnant woman. I could not help but consider the work of Blundell in a similar light, the pieces are all bastardised, cobbled together forms, but each seems to make sense and give the air of something that fits in the world or perhaps did once upon a time.
Floor Plan for an Institution – Meter Room I had not visited Meter Room before, but have followed their projects via social media and their website, as I believe this is a good model for an ambitious artist run space and is also in Coventry, a place I am somewhat intrigued by. I grew up in a picture-postcard, rural village in Devon and I think Coventry is pretty much the flipside of the coin, an industrial heart ravaged by the effects of the war. The difference is palpable, but I digress. The current exhibition at Meter Room is a re-examination or a critique of an institution. It seeks to transpose the logistics, or rather the spaces or zones, consistent with a 21st Century arts institution onto a rather typical (if such a thing exists) artist run space. In turn each of the zones have been given to an artist run space to respond to, which are being drip-fed into Meter Room over a period of 5 months. The identified zones are The Reception, The Auditorium, The Café and Bookshop, The Archive and The Gallery. I saw 2 ½ of these on my mid term visit.
The Reception had been given to Division of Labour, a new artist run space in Malvern and Worcester (where my Nan lived, but again I digress). A typical reception desk had been transposed to the space, where for the month of October a bored, inattentive receptionist had been employed to play solitaire and ignore visitors. This should be a site familiar to any London gallery, and in fact anyone who visited Cornerhouse at the start of the millennium, when I was on reception duties (though I rarely played solitaire in my defence).
The standout insertion here though was an updating of Spanish artist’s Antoni Muntadas’ 1987 piece, Backroom. A CCTV monitor sat above the reception desk watching, or rather allowing us to watch, the office of the gallery. The piece was originally shown at Luisa Strina gallery, the oldest commercial gallery in Sau Paulo, which I imagine presented a rather different office space than that of Meter Room, which is more of Grandad’s shed of interesting things than clinical office. The updating was perfect in its absurdity, the office at Meter Room is also clearly visible to the viewer through 5 office windows, in fact far more clearly than the camera eye can see. The context of CCTV has shifted substantially in the 25 years since the piece was first realised. In England we reportedly have more CCTV cameras per capita than any other country, yet apparently the ones in Downing Street are unreliable in ascertaining how many police and members of the public are in-shot when a cabinet minister allegedly calls officers plebs!
The Audiotorium had been given over to Vinyl Art Space, based in Birmingham, who designated the existing gallery space as an auditorium to hear the experience of several emerging and recent graduates who made work in the space. The work they produced was all made in response to what others had made and the results were strewn around the gallery somewhat chaotically.
The half part of what I experienced was the café and bookshop, which has been given to Movement gallery, again based in Worcester. I saw the emergence of their contribution, which at present consists of a tea trolley (apparently one used in an episode of Top Gear, fact fans). This will be adapted ready for a launch in the new-year. I should mention that Movement is based in a railway station and the tea trolley seemed to be straight out of British Rail era, i.e pre muffins and flapjack choice overload of today’s trolleys.
The show is building over the run of the show, remnants from the previous shows can be moved, edited or changed by the next inhabitants. This reminded me a little of LOT, an artist run space in Bristol which ran for one year. Each show had a different take and feel, but was also augmented by improvements, such as new lighting or a ripping up of the rather foul carpet. Meter Room as an institution appears to have an ethos of this, but in the incorporation of works from previous shows into the structure of the building, and I guess into each subsequent show. So a permanent collection is growing with works by Lawrence Weiner and Louise Lawler sitting happily or uncomfortably with each show.