Saturday, May 21st 2016
Art exhibitions have traditionally segregated the art – whether paintings hanging on the wall or sculptures placed on platforms or plinths – from the viewers who filed slowly past, observing the works from a respectful distance, often separated from them by a virtual or actual barrier of some kind. These days, this barrier is more and more often being dispensed with, allowing viewers to walk around the works, approach them and even in some cases manipulate them, as in the case of Roelof Louw’s now famous Soul City (Pyramid of Oranges), where visitors are invited to take an orange from the pyramid, thus modifying the work.
The exhibition we visited at South London Gallery takes this a step further. By Michael Dean, it is entitled Sic Glyphs. The relationship between the visitor and the art is not merely fortuitous but is made explicit as explained by this paragraph on the Web page (read the rest of the page for information on the art and the artist):
Works are encountered in an intimate experience that centres viewers as protagonists in what the artist describes as a “typographical texty field or a fXXXing forest of physically abstracted versions of my writing”. Dean’s explicit intention is for it to matter that it’s you who walks in through the door: that you are so much more than the reader of the text.
What that seems to mean is that the visitor is not merely a disembodied eye-brain taking in the sight of the art works but maintains an awareness of the self interacting with the works.
I cannot say whether or not I fulfilled the artist’s expectations but only what I actually experienced. One enters first into a small room or antechamber in which there resides a single work.
There is no information or signage to explain or direct you but you proceed through the open doorway ahead and then enter via a door immediately to your left.
This leads into a larger room, the floor and walls of which are painted brilliant white. As a result, this is less a containing area than a space of uncertain dimensions. The floor is scattered with objects large and small, among which you may freely walk. There are also stickers in places on the wall though these do not show up in the photos (mea culpa).
The immediate impression was that I was wandering in an alien landscape of some sort, an area partially cleared after demolition, perhaps, or a zone blasted by war. But then it seemed more as though it was the landscape of someone’s mind though I had no key to decode it. It also reminded me of the sketches and doodles made by some artists and illustrators in the Surrealist period.
While most of the objects seemed not to represent or imitate recognizable entities from the real world, some of the smaller ones did, such as this tuft of wild grass rooted in a lump of clay or some clenched hands moulded from clay.
The eye-brain sort to recognize objects or read a meaning into them but ultimately failed to do so (at least mine did!). One was left feeling that ‘meaning’ lay just beyond the reach of the mind.
A panoramic view from the far end (i.e. the end opposite the entrance/exit):
One leaves by the same smaller room through which one arrives:
The gallery’s Web page about the exhibition gives some information on the installation, in particular its connection with the artist’s writing, but beyond that one is left to explore and find one’s own understanding of it.