Destroyer o f c
I realized that searching was my symbol, the emblem of those who go out at night with nothing in mind, the motives of a destroyer of compasses. JULIO CORTAZAR
During the lectures in my master’s studies in Art History, when metatext was discussed, it was as means of art critique and essay writing – based on the idea that any text is influenced by another text, and so on. A statement was made that there is no “clean text” any more, as all texts we create in the contemporary world are in fact all metatexts. There is no possibility to create anything original in the age of post production. At the beginning, our plan was to force the audience to create original texts by describing an art piece they will touch. The idea so to speak, of a closed box with artwork hidden inside, was to prevent the public from seeing. The artwork will thus make a random “viewer” touch and interpret, creating a language for things not seen.
A box with hidden artwork, by the nature of a closed box, is rather minimalistic. One of the curators (who is also a visual artist) insisted on making the exhibition more visual, so the idea was to be rethought. The strong need to connect touch – as well as other haptic sensations – with sight is a repeated predilection of Western aesthetics. I was surprised by such strong position of connecting aesthetic with sight. With a desire to mock the visual normative exhibition practice (it was my desire at least), it was decided that our exhibition would go from touch to sight through other senses. Some of these senses are respected by the Western art canon, while others are seen as “secondary”. In Clara Ursitti’s article for Art & Research, “The Phenomenology of Olfactory Perception: An Interview with Clara Ursitti”, she discussed that art exhibitions are working mostly with what’s visible. The path from invisible to visible, step by step, seemed to be an interesting reflection on exhibition practices. Scent and smell work directly with the brain, and seem to be connected to the parts of the brain that deal with memories and strong emotions. As touch requires close contacts
with the body, it is assumed that a person is not able to keep appropriate distance to make objective judgements. Touch, smell and taste can offer pleasant stimuli. But in the Western art history canon, works using these senses have never achieved the status of art objects. The status of art has only been applied to sight and hearing, for which Western culture has created a rich vocabulary. This has caused different perceptions towards senses, and towards works created within these frames. As â€œsecondaryâ€? senses have been argued to serve mainly the needs of survival and sexual reproduction, they often seem inappropriate to be represented in the clean space of the art gallery. According to modern aesthetics, sight and hearing are the only senses deemed suitable for the production of art. Theses senses are privileged by art historical discipline and exhibition practice even till today. The art gallery is traditionally seen as a space where senses are separated. A space where the audience is not supposed to be distracted by other senses, and only focus on viewing.
It created a reality in which anything that is not visual is in danger of being marginalized or invisible, as it is simply not represented. In consequence, using scent, taste or touch in art practices becomes a challenge to the norm of the visually dominant art and culture. Inside the exhibition framework of Whisper Game, a possibility was created to experience all five senses of touch, smell, taste, hearing and sight as medium of art, bringing some of these senses from invisible to visible, from neglected to adored. With respect to the scientific research on human as synaesthetes, a labyrinth was created inside the gallery space to encourage visitors discover various senses by guiding them from one sense to another. The labyrinth was also a mirror of the course of the whisper game, played between us the curators and the invited artists. A path from invisible to visible was created by asking five participating artists to interpret and pass on a message through their works. Each commissioned artwork (that corresponded with one of the five senses, touch, smell, taste, sound and sight) was an interpretation of the received message. The exchanges among the artists thus created a loop of interpretations through all the
human senses. The artists were asked not only to create an artwork each as a response, he/she was also obliged to create a description of the artwork, which would be sent to the next artist for interpretation. In this way, a perfect situation was created for writing text about other texts.
I realized that searching was my symbol, the emblem of those who go out at night with nothing in mind, the motives of a destroyer of compasses. ( Julio Cortazar)
The message to the first artist was sent by us as curators. It had been stated that there are infinite number of valid interpretations for any given piece of art. The message we sent, â€œdestroyer of compassesâ€?, was then to accumulate other words, images and artworks around itself. I wished that the chosen artists would decide to destroy the compasses, and in a way they did. Interpretations around the first message started to take on a life of their own, each demanding the same amount of tension. Interpretations started to demand their own interpretations.
There are things around us that we can only perceive with the given framework. The language of Western societies is capable of describing the visual experience with a rich vocabulary, but is insufficient in capturing the olfactory experience. The only language available to capture scent is a metaphorical one. Descriptions of other ‘secondary’ senses, such as taste and touch, are also limited with rather poor and vague terminology. The differences in vocabulary have created boundaries in the means of presenting. Not only does it affect our considerations, it also affects how we describe (works and experience) as well as our decisions on what to be ‘shown’. Not to mention the practical difficulties in displaying the works and ‘giving’ them to the visitors. To build a framework for the ‘secondary’ senses is even more difficult if we consider that smell and taste, as well as the experience of ‘touching’, have rather ephemeral characters and seem to be impossible to record or reproduce. Western aesthetics, on the contrary, likes to deal with permanent materials, neglecting ‘lower’ senses for their capacity of dealing with ephemeral stimuli and consuming their objects. The problem arose during preparation of the publication. How do we represent touch, smell, taste and hearing on the printed medium,
without working too much with the visual? Sight is a strong sense and the one we use the most. It is hard to set it apart from other senses, as it is hard to treat them as equals. In the paper publication we are using text; in online platforms we will try to present the artworks, by working with the senses the works were referring to.
Our plan / What I thought would happen
message e (tr anslation)
ec n) tio
message b (tr anslation)
m e s sa g e a
message d (tr anslation)
Our plan / What I thought would happen
Some rules: â€˘ Curators are not to interfere with message transmission among artists; curators to accept all messages generated. â€˘ With the exception of the message from the previous artist, information on all messages and artworks are not to be revealed to the participating artists until the exhibition opens.
What I think actually happened
message b omm t ar y) en
m e s sa g e a
message e (tr anslation)
message d (ga me play)
Works in space
1. Barbara Fragogna 2. Clara Ursitti 3. Alicia Rios 4. Richard Widerberg 5. Gareth Spor or (according to Laura Mott) 1. library 2. bathroom 3. kitchen 4. sitting room 5. living room
Game, structure, surreal, dynamic, the unseen and the seen, symbols, dark vs light, visual, hidden, senses and feelings. I liked the idea of a game as a structure of this exhibition where we as curators play a game with the artists. We thought we would have the advantage of the game but we soon saw that we had lost control over it. The game as it passed the first artist took a different form from what we thought it would do. As we didnâ€™t have any control over it any longer. We had to play the game. The senses were our guide through Whisper Game, it guided us in some direction and at the beginning we thought that this was a way for us to feel like we steered the artists to a direction.
This was also wrong. As we were playing the game, we saw that the senses could not be experienced by their own. If you are tasting food you have to touch it and see it, not to mention some of the artists mixed their given senses. It became more of a sense-structured exhibition, the visitors had to interact with the artworks in one way. Our memories are influence by our experience seeking for something inside past by the words of the unknown what can simply words do
“Art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible.” “A desire to make the chance into something essential.” Paul Klee
Anders Karlen It’s hard to determine the end of a game in advance, but imagine if the whole process had a life of it’s own, and then you feel scared and expectant at the same time. The negatives come from fear of the unknown and the positive expectations are ridden out of the little fluffy seduction cloud playing its own mind-tripping head games. The conclusion hopefully surprises you in a new, unknown way, and in this case, takes art and cooperation to another level. To do this game you need a structure. But for this game/exhibition, the artists were free to read and forward the message however they wanted, and it is hard as a curator to not be allowed to change or affect anything once it’s “decided”. Are we, the curators, also playing the game? Where is the border between a curator and an artist? This is something I’ve struggled with during the course. Inspired by the Situationist way of working, we told ourselves not to be afraid of the outcome. Rather take notes of what happens, why and what content results as an end of the game. If it is an end.
Diaconu, Mădălina. “Reflections on an Aesthetics of Touch, Smell and Taste.”
Contemporary Aesthetics, 14 Aug. 2006.
Jung, Carl, Man and his symbols, 1964 Kirschenblatt-Gimblett, Barbara. “Playing to the Senses; Food as a Performance Medium.”
Performance Research: a Journal of Performance Arts 4. Essential: 1-30. Print.
Leth, Jørgen, and Lars von Trier. The Five Obstructions. 2004. Marinetti, Filippo Tommaso, The Futurist Cookbook, Bedford Arts, San Francisco, 1989 Taborska, Agnieszka. Spiskowscy wyobraźni. Surrealiści, Eseje o sztuce, 2007 Ursitti, Clara. “The Phenomenology of Olfactory Perception: An Interview.”
Art & Research. Volume 2. No. 1., Summer 2008.
Wodecka, Dorota. “Spryskuję się sobą” 27 Jul. 2009
A RT I S T W E B S I T E S
Barbara Fragogna Clara Ursitti Alicia Rios Richard Widerberg Gareth Spor
barbarafragogna.blogspot.com www.claraursitti.com www.alicia-rios.com www.riwid.net www.garethspor.com
We sincerely thank Anthony Marcellini, Laura Mott, Patrik Hag gren and Matthew R ana for their feedbacks and helpful hands, as well as the Valand Academy for funding our project. We also thank our sponsors for their g enerous support.
Exhibition Dates : 23-26 Aug ust 2012 Galleri Rotor, Valand Academy University of Gothenburg Vasag atan 50, Gothenburg , Sweden
Whisper Game was collectively curated by
Publication texts and imag es :
Ula Lewicka (Amsterdam), Xueyin
Ula Lewicka , Xueyin Chen,
Chen (Beijing / Lund), Anders Karlen (Stockholm), and Rebecca Eskilsson
Anders Karlen, Rebecca Eskilsson Publication design : Xueyin Chen, Anders Karlen
(Gothenburg), under the framework of the summer course Curating and Cultural Production Strategies: Galleri Experimentell at the Valand Academy.
Valand Academy, Department of Fine Art Gothenburg University, Gothenburg, Sweden ISBN 978-91-87125-03-4 whispergame.tumblr.com