Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Picadilly Community Centre - Spoiler alert

After the Summer Show I popped over to the Hauser and (wot's it) Wirth for the Christoph Büchel installation. Various friends had said what a fun experience it was. Nothing, however, had prepared me for the complete transformation he has affected. Upon arriving my first thought was "oh well the show must have finished and they've finally turned the gallery space over to some other kind of business." I stood in the entrance hall asking another visitor if this was art. Many people, myself included, are interested in disolving the barrier between art and life and Büchel has managed this, though not effortlessly. There are problematic questions such as "where will all the people who have taken succour from this new venue, right in the middle of town, go when it closes at the end of the exhibition?" I had a fleeting feeling that they were mere colours on the artist's palette as I glimpsed them through a newly constructed interior window wall. But! This is the least ironic show I can remember seeing. I have never had such a giddy feeling of walls and boundaries physically and metaphorically disolving at an art exhibition (now I come to think of it The Kids Co show in porta cabins behind the Tate Modern actually had a very similar affect and packed a heftier emotional punch.)
I read recently that narrative installations were all the rage in college shows and the squat at the top of the gallery certainly pandered to that audience. I was genuinely frightening to climb the cast iron ladder and squeeze through the small opening into the eaves where a recently evacuated squat awaited. It did not smell like a squat. The non denominational prayer room, however, did. Smell like a prayer room not a squat. I took off my shoes as requested and muttered the 10th 13th and 15th Psalms. You think I'm joking but this was a narrative installation.
As I ambled into the dance studio where spanish singing lessons were taking place I felt like an unwanted guest. And as I left the instructor pointedly closed the doors after me.
I intend to return for the laughter session on Thursday. This is a brilliant installation that makes a mockery of the confines of gallery semiotics because it has become a real functioning place. I have never seen gallery attendants so busy as they got involved with genuine help in the community. Gallery's often lend a knowing sense of detachment to the proceedings but the Old Bank space on Picadilly habitually escapes this and never more entirely than the current contribution to big society.




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