13 January – 26 February 2012
at G Gallery, Toronto
Sediment, Installation view, 2012. Courtesy G Gallery
From 13 January to 26 February 2012, Toronto’s G Gallery presents the group exhibition entitled Sediment. Affiliated with Guelph University, G Gallery’s reputation for supporting experimental shows was substantiated by this latest exhibition, with an arrangement of works that deviate from standard exhibition models. Sediment originated from a call out submission written by Shane Krepakevich, one of the show’s present curators. At the project level, its topic was generally assumed to be about artist books, their ‘support structures’ and the way these operate between the status of document and self-contained artwork. But when incarnated in its physical manifestation, the exhibition grew beyond its original concept and became something more. Sediment is now best described as a show connecting the gaps between art and its many peripherals, or even, as the artists mention, a composite work of art in its own right. The following conversation was conducted between participating artist Yam Lau as well as curators Shane Krepakevich and Michelle McGeean.
Conversation on Sediment – an exhibition of artist’s bookwork and book support or an exercise in exhibition arrangement?
Yam Lau [YL]: I would like to begin by giving some context for this interview on the exhibition at G Gallery, Toronto entitled, Sediment. I’m Yam Lau, one of the artists in the exhibition and I’m sitting in the gallery with Shane Krepakevich and Michelle McGeean, the two curators of the exhibition.
Because I spent a few days setting up my piece in the exhibition, I saw how the exhibition was put together, how the whole thing unfolds. For this reason I think I have a different perspective from the other artists who only discovered the show and in particular the way their work was treated at the opening. The first thing that struck me about this exhibition is that it’s very unusual. That’s the reason I like it. Rather than an exhibition of discreet art objects, the whole thing reads as one work, one gesture. All the elements, the work, the support of the work, partitions and gallery furniture are interconnected by a kind of flow, or energy.
Maybe you can speak a little bit about this peculiar character of the exhibition. I don’t think it was how the other artists envisioned it when they were invited to participate in an artist’s book and book support project.
Shane Krepakevich [SK]: You mean that people might not have had a sense of what it [exhibition] would be based on that call for submissions? Sure, at that point I didn’t have an intention of making the exhibition as a piece (of work). That was something that came out through developing the exhibition.
The call was a means to generate a response that I wouldn’t be able to anticipate that then would have to be crafted into something. But I didn’t know what that something was. So really I think the one exhibition as a thing came out through finding out about Céline Condorelli’s book Support Structures and then getting in contact with her and having her provide a text, the proposal for a support structure, Prespecific Structure. Then it started to make sense to me that her text should be used to construct a large structure that would go throughout the space. It was also where Michelle became involved that we would work on the structure collaboratively.
So it was really when that text came into the process of generating the exhibition that this idea of one entire thing came out. We had two months worth of discussion prior to building the exhibition and the structure. The few things we talked about were: the support structure has to respond to Condorelli’s text, the gallery space, the individual works, the pairings of objects and the other things that were included in the exhibition. It both couldn’t become too dominant and overwhelm the exhibition but that it had to insert itself and act as a connector between works.
Michelle McGeean [MM]: In the discussion prior to building was: okay, what are we going to build and how does that physical form reflect Condorelli’s text. But as soon as we got into the space that sort of thing seemed a little less important. I think it (the support structure) mostly sort of came out when we were building it more than anything.
The support structure was always going to be this unifying, underlying quality within the exhibition itself. It had to fit in the space but also be almost like a stranger in the space too. It had to stand out a bit, become its own thing but also relate to the space itself. I think that’s one of the first things we agreed upon, that in making it the support structure changed from these different materials being placed in the actual gallery space. The show itself became a support structure. That was unexpected.
SK: I think we had got Condorelli’s text enough in our head through the discussions. We didn’t really have to explicitly think about it when we were building the exhibition. It was somehow in the background of our minds, guiding our decisions to achieve the qualities she wanted to have in the structure.
YL: Well certainly if I recall Condorelli’s text, it’s not an instruction to build. There is no way to literally realize physical forms out of it. But somehow the exhibition is realized based on it. It feels like a prophecy being fulfilled.
What I like about the exhibition is that it feels spontaneous. Nothing is prescribed. – it demonstrates a way to do things, a technique of sort that is developed out of a specific necessity. For example, like if you’re homeless, you need to build a small dwelling for yourself – you’re not trained as an architect – but you need to find ways to build something that has to work. So you will develop a technique only for that – just enough technique to build that house for you to survive. So there’s something very tenuous, fragile but also believable and beautiful about that because you see in the house that this person has discovered a technique through building it.
Works by Tiziana La Melia (book) + Shane Krepakevich and Michelle McGeean (book support), 2012. Courtesy the artists. Photo by Yam Lau
And I feel it is kind the same with Sediment. You have some reference points to start but you don’t have an idea what this show will look like. You have a need or something. Then you make do with what you can find within the space – drywall materials, cinder blocks, pieces of wood, etc. The exhibition is almost “fabricated” on the spot, using whatever is available on site or from a hardware store nearby. It has a very loose, very gestural and responsive quality about it. It is a work of expedience I may say. So this is the technique discovered here in this space and through this process.
SK: Yeah, Condorelli’s text is not instructional in any way. The text is quite open-ended and we didn’t know really what a lot of the works were going to be until – some, a couple of weeks before the exhibition, some a couple of days before the exhibition and some on the last day of the installation of the exhibition. So there was necessarily a lot of response and some of that was planned in the way that the open call left a lot of room for the thing to not be concrete. Then the rest was circumstance. All of those factors combined allowed us to be responsive and make something different than we otherwise would have.
YL: Looking at the result I can see the meaning of doing things this way. But isn’t it easier just to collect the works and show them? I would say from the outset you want this unknown because it forces you to do something else.
SK: Right. Yeah, and I think it was half conscious and half unconscious on my part, I mean I obviously didn’t start an exhibition that had set parameters. I decided to go for an open call. Clearly I wanted some sort of uncertainty and reactiveness. And I’m not sure how that, if you [Michelle] feel like we cultivated that kind of reactiveness in developing the structure or installing the exhibition as well?
MM: Yes. Just based on the influx of people’s works coming in and sort of, at times being shocked: “how’s that going to fit in?” … “well, oh, just move that there and the other over there”. I mean that’s sort of really literally at the basest point of it that.