CHRISTOPHER L.G. HILL
Curated by David Homewood
- In his classic 1917 essay “Art as Technique,” the Russian critic Viktor Shklovsky suggests that ordinary perception is nothing more than the product of the deadened residue of habit. Clouded by the laws of senseless repetition, perception is blind not only to its object but also, more troublingly, to the act of perceiving itself; this autopilot of permanent distraction is a precondition for the appearance of the world. For Shklovksy, the primary significance of art derives precisely from its capacity to disrupt perception through the technique of “defamiliarisation” (ostranenie). “A work is created ‘artistically,’” Shklovksy writes, “so that its perception is impeded and the greatest possible effect is produced through the slowness of the perception.” In their subtle (and at times barely noticeable) modification and recombination of found objects, the artists featured in this exhibition seek to induce the sort of punctuation of perception theorised by Shklovksy.
- Analogous to the found object functioning as the ground upon which the artist’s gesture is inscribed, the contextual frame of the art gallery permits the same object to reveal itself as such. But the installation of numerous objects comprising a single artwork not only throws into relief the negative space of the gallery—it also means that, inevitably, an alteration to the form of a single work comes to partially determine the form of other similarly structured artworks in the exhibition. As the role of the artist fades imperceptibly into that of the curator—and the broadly curatorial orientation of the work on display here is further indicated by the set of techniques (collection, storage, organisation, and display) commonly employed by the artists in their production—the exhibition comes to be seen increasingly as an artwork in itself.
- The professional curator, that nascent figure in the landscape of post-1960s art, is located on the periphery of artistic production. And since they are obliged to perform a range of duties straddling the domains of public relations, marketing, administration and management, they have been regarded by some as a potential threat to the autonomy of the contemporary artist. In these accounts, the curator is depicted as a sort of middleman, a middle-management type who mediates between the artist, institution, and public.
- The term “micromanagement” ordinarily refers to a manager’s close surveillance of, or unnecessary interference with, the carrying out of delegated tasks in the workplace. In the case of an art exhibition, the term might be broadened to refer to a situation in which another party (whether artist, curator, gallerist, director, landlord, policeman etc.), through their efforts to have the autonomous artwork conform to their own code, threatens in some way the latter’s capacity to actualise the desired effect of defamiliarisation. In bringing together six artists whose work is broadly curatorial in orientation, the current exhibition sets up a situation in which artists themselves are forced to engage in what might be called the micromanagement of form, seeking to assume responsibility for the form of their own artwork while, at the same time, necessarily acknowledging in that same work the artistic production of their peers.
*David Homewood, 2012