Saturday, 1 May 2010

GI Festival

Well I was right in my last post about Jimmie Durham's exhibition - it was AWESOME. Universal Miniature Golf (The Promised Land) was a very nice exhibition to invigilate. In the exhibition he explored the shared cultural identity of the Scots and his own identity of Cherokee, who were colonised by Scots immigrants back in the day.

Durham is a great believer in using humour to explore themes within his work, most of the time it works and other times it seems almost like random connections that he makes, for instance in a previous work he was invited to Durham to make some of his work and he was particularly tickled by the idea that his name was Durham and he was working in Durham and the work was spawned from this link... just a tad to random for my liking.

Nonetheless, sometimes his humour really aids in revealing abstract ideas about more fundamental political opinions and I do like the fact that Durham doesn't just bring a whole load of work like other artist's and just installs it into another white space. Instead, he creates work around the history of the city (or place) and people, using the pieces of information that he picks up during his stay, which in turn actually makes the work have a broader audience, appealing to those who like abstract art and those who would rather have concrete facts.

Durham links the history of Scotland to some of his own heritage and connects it to golf. The whole exhibition is reminscent of a miniature golf course, however what is lacking is some form of interaction. Durham's work seems to beg for interaction and though the work was installed well, the GSS gallery space is a bit on the soporific side.

These oil cans were one of the few things that he decided to bring from a previous installation.

I really like this piece.

This was a found piece of work, apparently he found this comic strip cartoon on a street in Glasgow. It was very apt because it was all about how a young man just really wants to paint, but the only work he can find is construction/destruction but then he finds he quite likes it. Jimmie Durham comes from a working class background and he mentioned in his talk that he finds it difficult to exercise because he feels that manual labour is his exercise. Destruction is very important to his work and in the next room there was a video of him dressed in a suit, at a desk, banging rocks. There is a noticable dichotomy between Jimmie Durham the artist and Jimmie Durham the working man.

This was my favourite piece. It was a great sculptural object in itself but also the sentiment of the piece was very moving. It was a memorial piece for his friend Joe David who was murdered by the police in a racist attack because of his political posistioning and his belief in his ancestral right to land.

In my time invigilating I was asked to keep note of the number of people who came in to visit the exhibition, I was also asked to stop anyone photographing to make sure that they signed a form stating that they were only going to use their images of the show for education purposes only. This really began to bug me because I myself obviously took images and signed the sheet. However, aren't all images of this nature a form of education and if I happen to take some enjoyment from this then that's my perogative. I have not reproduced these images (or any others in my blog) in an aim to undermine the gallery or the artist but to share their educational (enjoyment) value with others. Nonetheless, what I am about to write will undermine the GSS not Jimmie Durham though cause he is still a dude.

I was supposed to work at GSS for five days and boy oh boy I'm glad I said I couldn't start Monday because of trying to get my assessment finished because I won't exactly be rushing back to volunteer any time soon. I arrived on the Tuesday, was told to look around the exhibition by myself to get a gist, then finally I was introduced to someone who actually isn't even the person who "employed" me to work there (that person never bothered to introduce themselves, I mean I know they were busy but it's just not proffessional in my opinion). Then I was left to invigilate all day, given a lot of reading material on Jimmie Durham, with only a half an hour break (I took 1hr cause I made friends in a very cool carpark exhibition and they gave me beer), offered one cup of tea the whole time I was there, the next day I asked to go for an extended lunch time break to see a friend who I hadn't seen in a long time, I was told this probably wouldn't be possible and "pushing it a bit". But I was giving up my free time to freeze my butt off invigilating for them with no thanks in return. Luckily, I got my time off cause somebody else took over to invigilate. I spent the rest of my afternoon burning cd's and then the next day invigilating again all day. It got to 6pm when I finished and I was told that I could stand in the back and listen to Jimmie Durham give a talk in half an hour. I offered to help put out chairs, stopped to read a text (for like 5secs) and was told "we could really do with your help" as if I had been doing nothing. Then after working an extra half an hour I was asked to get people out of the gallery - NOT MY JOB, I AM NOT PAID TO BE HERE/IS THIS NOT MANAGEMENT'S JOB?! So I stayed for the talk but did not return the next day, not when I've got bigger fish to fry like my 3rd yr assessment. At first I thought I would not write about how crap it was working there but then I thought the likelyhood that I will want to work for that establishment is pretty slim so why not get it off my chest and be honest.

I want this table!

Jimmie Durham sort of does non-talk talks. There is a lot of silence involved. But what I noticed in this talk is how shit it is when places like GSS are funded through such things as National Lottery, Scottish Arts Council, Culture and Sport Glasgow, Henry Moore Foundation etc. They begin to lose their artistic spirit but obviously without funding from these institutions such places like GSS wouldn't exist and fewer artist's would exist. They become bound by rules such as number of people/chairs can be in a space for a talk, what happens if the fire alarm goes off... and these places lose all sense of character and occassion.

GI is an arts festival is it not...?! Festivals = fun?! If you go to other countries and happen to come across some kind of arts festival then it's a celebration not a restriction. In my opinion if offering a free talk, fuck the improbability of the fire alarm going off and let as many fuckers in as possible.

Luckily my friends in the carpark seemed to have it right. All you need is a great collective of people, friendly invigilators who offer great chat and the possibility of beer, some great alternative art in an alternative space and hey presto a true arts festival atmosphere, not dissiimilar to Berlin on a summers day.



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