Monday, April 26, 2010

wounded wall

One of the things that I loved about the Wangechi Mutu exhibition in Toronto was the Wounded Wall - one long wall of the exhibition where the surface had been damaged - attacked with a hammer, and holes made in it that she's then painted red, as though the wall itself was bleeding. In the video describing her working methods that accompanied the exhibition, she explained how this attack on a wall was a way of shaking up the customary reverence and respect associated with a gallery. As she says, people who are used to art on display know how to "behave" in a gallery - shades of C19th anxieties about letting in the unwashed hordes. But rather than sharing in that C19th debate - either of dread that dirt and grubby breath will somehow pollute the pictures, or that, on the other hand, the working-class public should have the chance of seeing important art - Mutu actually reflects on what it's like to attend an exhibition if this is unfamiliar cultural territory. It's weird, she points out, to walk into a white cube, with lots of space, and other people present - and no one talking to you. And as she says, all these dead things staring back is a scary experience. So - attack a wall: demolish its pristine superiority.

The only trouble is - this wall isn't in an art gallery. Most regrettably, it's in our basement. And it's leaking wet New Jersey rain, once again. Yes, the contractors have Plans to Do Things outside to stop the leaks. That being said, they won't be the first, or even the second, contractors with ambitions in that direction, though their ambitions are, shall we say, way more ambitious, and involve removing concrete, a lot of ground, and a large tree. But - illuminated by, yes! - flash, this wall doesn't look at all promising.

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