In many ways ironic that I should find out about Doug Aitkens project ‘Station to station- a 30 day happening’ that was to take over the Barbican , London from the 27th June through to the 26th July, shortly after reading about Kaprow. I was going to be in London on the weekend of the 10th/11th July with my family so we went along.
I didn’t really know what to expect other than what I had gleaned from the publicity- This ‘living exhibition’, brings together a fusion of leading international and UK-based artists from the world of contemporary art, music, dance, graphic design and film in a jam-packed programme., with more than a 100 free events over 30 days. It gave the impression of a lot happening. I was really interested to get an insight into the idea of a ‘living exhibition’ and how it might work, in particular in relation to my own work.
There is almost too much to detail, and many opportunities to be a participant. We were led through a darkened room, following laser beams that were somehow digitally recording the environment as well as our shadows that would then become animated and added to a film/video work that would evolve over the 30 days. We lay on beanbags in a space with wall to wall to ceiling screens showing Doug Aitken’s film ‘Station to Station’, and were offered pieces of Catcus omelette made according to a recipe by Ed Ruscha, as he appeared on the screen. We visited different enviroments housed in Yurts- a dark space with heavy felt walls that had words written on them, a bright light space with a double bed and many mirrors and a magical orange space. We witnessed a musical ensemble by the lakes and a smoke sculpture. In the galleries was a working print studio, a space with a dance troop working, Martin Creed was in residence rehearsing for a performance, there was an artist painting responses to peoples questions, a studio pressing vinyl records, a graphic studio producing album covers. I’m sure there was more that I’ve missed.
As a living project exploring modern creativity it provided the opportunity to witness the creative process of different media in action alongside each other, and the opportunity to engage in dialogue with some of the artist too. In terms of performative/ participatory aspects there were lots of examples of how this might happen. In relation to my own work I need to decide how it might work in such a situation, and weather it might entail enacting a process or deciding if there is space to allow for active participation of a viewer. It was of interest to see the documentation of Olafur Eliasson’s ‘Connecting across country with a line’ in one of the galleries. A drawing project on the ‘Station to station’ train, where he had created a drawing machine that held a round disc, it looks as though he inked up a ball which was then placed on the disc and the movements of the train took it on a journey around the canvas- a line taking a walk scripted by the movements of the train, resulting in line drawings that make a record of the journey. In the space was a selection of the drawings, approx. 14, the actual drawing machine and a short video of the drawing machine in action. In the narrative alongside the film Eliasson says,
‘Thinking into doing you make a work of art, it’s almost as if it is a thought from the future which you are just preparing to be thought- where does an idea come from?’
Seeing this has really made me think about different possibilities for showing my trace drawings, both at assessment and in an exhibition situation. I’m really glad I was able to make this event as it has given me a real physical experience of what some of those possibilities might be and how they might be achieved.
Another thing that made me think about the nature of the performative was witnessing Olaf Breuning’s Smoke performance. It was great to watch, but the fact that I filmed it made me realise it lasted for just over 1 minute, which in turn made me think about how you might define the performative in art practice. It seems to be about the action or activity, it doesn’t have to be lengthy, it’s about sharing it with others and seems to embrace elements of uncertainty. It has certainly given me food for thought.