Wednesday, September 09, 2009
Rock 'n' Rolla
The owner of a small, new gallery in rural Victoria was surprised when I agreed to her hesitant suggestion that I might consider her space for a show. A lot of artists, curators, gallerists and some collectors think there's a pecking order for commercial galleries, according to the artists associated with them, the size and location of the spaces, the credibility and perceived acuity of the management, the money behind them, and so on. They talk of there being the 'right' venues for emerging artists and the 'wrong' ones for artists with established reputations, as if some spaces should be deemed to be 'beneath' a venerable 'name' or acknowledged money-maker.I think of galleries the same way a rock 'n' roll band thinks of venues: there are good and bad ones, there are ones that have a bit of history or a better weekday crowd, but you pretty much play them all when you're on the road. And as long as the crowd gets into what you're playing, a cramped, smokey chicken-wire bar at a truck-stop in the middle of nowhere can be as much fun as a slick 'big room' or a swanky theatre in the heart of a city. Punk and No Wave bands in the 70s and 80s and grunge bands in the '90s used to eschew large capacity venues for the club circuit. Even stadium gods like the Stones have been known to warm up their aging chops in small, local dives before heading out on their million-dollar, multi-national tours. Of course, late 20th and 21st century artists have long been encouraged (by gallerists, mostly) to think of exhibitions as being more occasional, elitist and, well, reverent than a music gig. It's a residue of a 19th century Romantic notion about so-called fine art that I just can't stomach. So, next year, I am planning a series of shows around the world that will open within a few weeks of each other, each featuring different works, in different media, in very different types of venues, from small, single rooms in major cities and rural towns to rambling, museum-like, multi-room spaces in suburbia. I'm also doing a few talks and 'one-night-stands' at universities and artist-run spaces. At it's simplest, it's an experiment. I can exhibit new work and at the same time, meet some of the people who have found their way to me through my various virtual spaces online – just as they have to a new generation of young musicians, film-makers and performers. I can also test the idea that, in this post-Web 2.0 age in which concepts of 'ownership' are increasingly tenuous, there's been a radical shift in the locus of real value in the arts – a value no longer determined by scarcity but by ubiquity – from the art work (the 'product') to the artist (or 'producer').When it's over, I'll follow the routine of road-weary musicians and return to the studio to compose new works. Who knows? Once I have a new 'set', I might take it 'on tour' again.