Riley Harmon

One curatorial programme, five curators, two shows

Issue no4
aug - sept 2018
Exchange - Fotografie - Eindexamens 2018

This year's final presentation of de Appel CP is split in two. Despite all the differences that have led to this seperation, the two shows still have something in common.

‘Too Many Cooks Spoil the Broth’, says old proverb dated 1575, which alludes to each of many cooks adding something to a soup that finally tastes not very good and according to contemporary meaning relates to a situation when ‘too many people work together on a project, the result is inferior’ (says the dictionary definition*).

What would have happened if we imagined the cooks to be curators? Like the case in the yearly final presentation of de Appel CP, curated by a whole group of curators who never worked together before they met in September last year. Making an exhibition by few of them (which are not a collective founded of their attention voluntarily) sounds already like a great challenge.

It is one of the premises of the ten month long Curatorial Programme for promising curators, which has been organized at de Appel arts center since 1994. However existing for more than twenty years the course proved that it may be feasible, curatorial teamwork, naturally with different results and by means of many disputes and compromises. Never before working on the final presentation led to division of the curatorial team into two groups. This year it did. We have on view two separated shows: at the lower level: Spell To Spelling ** Spelling To Spell and a floor above – Your Time is Not My Time.

Robertas Narkus

‘The spell itself appeared in our minds (…) at the installation of the artist Kader Attia that we were browsing through in the Bozar in Brussels.’ – explains in her post on the de Appel CP blog Inga Lace, who together with Chiara Ianeselli curated the exhibition on the ground floor. ‘Spelling was what we added to the spell, since we wanted to guide the associations into another direction away from magic, towards language.’

The exhibition started before it physically happened. Its preface, A Day In Life Of Thomas took place in a form of an evening filled with performative activities by some of partaking artists at the Stedelijk Museum, the week before the opening.

David Bernstein

The concept of the show arose from the conversations with artists, experienced mostly during studio visits, over which different stories, histories, references and biographies of the artworks came into being. Guided by common fascination and interest Lace and Ianeselli tried to find a way of expressing tension of telling and showing, in relation to the chosen and presented works (most of which were commissioned especially for the exhibition). Practices of participating artists circulate somehow between a broad understanding of those expressions, telling and spelling.

Storyteller David Bernstein - in a series of performances - presents objects inhabiting de Appel’s library, Francisco Camacho plays with the idea of method of loci, Alberto de Michele encourages to steel his own artwork, anthropological strains are revealed by Christian Fagarolli and Ola Lanko, explorer and archivist Martin La Roche brings to light two forgotten collections, during her workshop Myriam Lefkowitz asks what is the content of a perceiving act, Charles Matton attempts to delve deeper into the stuff of reality constructing miniaturized worlds, Robertas Narkus plays with the viewer in experimental engineering puns game and Ossip donates a new life to found images.

Martin La Roche

Placed in one of the rooms Fagarolli’s model of the brain choreographing the dance of the minds – seems to be a metaphor for everything what’s happening around it.

Bücchi, 1885

While Spell To Spelling ** Spelling to Spell brings language and fiction connotations, the title of the second exhibition, (curated by Barbara Cueto, Bas Hendrikx, Lian Ladia) Your Time is Not My Time sounds like a trailer for a sci-fi or utopian movie production. And looking at the show – this claim does not deviate far from the truth. “We are producers of data, and circulation has become currency itself. (…) the notion of authorship continuous to expand, while at the same time, ceases to exist” – says the press release.

Whilst the other show started with a prologue outside of the main exhibition space (and its opening period) – Your Time Is Not My Time, as befits alternative visual economies called up in its foundations - continues beyond the gallery walls. Disturbing hypertextual online interventions by Benjamin Forster direct the attention to the relation of the website and physical gallery space. Keren Cytter’s text-based work could be only experience reading the pages of the exhibition catalogue. Sam Smith during his performance audio-visual collage behaves like stream of consciousness. Lav Diaz' movie which is presented in Filmhuis Cavia challenges the narrative of time into in the language of cinema.

Riley Harmon

The actual physical space of the de Appel arts center has been inhabited by Andrés Galeano’s 1053715010152349207537690 1377992960_n post-romance images, Riley Harmon’s video installation – a hybrid of an almost Brechtian approach and dialogues form online chat rooms, Tilman Hornig’s glass laptops collection, designer collective Metahaven’s video capturing precarious labor in the notion of love, Alexandra Navratil’s video-reflection on medium and technique of photography, Wu Tsang re-performing autism rights activist Amanda Bagg and Bruno Zhu’s online photobooks brought to the physical space of de Appel foyer.

If the exhibitions could be described in realms of qualities of colors, in this case I would definitely avoid the division for black and white – but rather place the Spell To Spelling ** Spelling to Spell in a range of warm tones and Your Time Is Not My Time in cold ones. Or even more – both could be compared to different shades of the same color.

Although the shows seem to vary, from chosen subject to formal display, their aesthetic appears to have something in common. The link for me is their peculiar 'sterility', neatness – alike with the way of choosing the works as well as arranging them in the space. They share somehow almost laboratory-like feeling. Displayed works don’t seem to conduct a dialogue between themselves, they are rather placed in a fixed setting, like exhibits under the glass. Like particles of the set that exist separated but if needed they can be linked together in a group. The energy of both exhibitions is very balanced. It cannot be denied that the shows are very well curated, but almost with a mathematical precision, which doesn’t leave much space for spontaneity and vim.

  • The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
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Metropolis M Magazine for contemporary art No 4 — 2018