For her monthly column, Attilia interviews Nigel Dunkley from N/V_PROJECTS about their current exhibition, LOT at CUL DE SAC Gallery.
at CUL DE SAC Gallery
Curated by N/V_PROJECTS
Ane Graff, Jan Kiefer, Max Ruf, Marianne Spurr, Pedro Wirz
Walking through a narrow street, in the backyard of Elephant and Castle’s hectic circular activity you will find the experimental visual art spaces PlazaPlaza and Cul de Sac Gallery. One next to the other, both spaces showcase contemporary artists through an open format offering an interesting platform for research and engagement.
The exhibition currently presented at Cul De Sac Gallery, a space open to always-changing projects proposed by artists and curators, is called LOT and curated by N/V_PROJECTS. The show brings together five emerging international artists, examining modes of production, which connect unexpectedly, as written in the press release; 'the artists' respective approach to making art in poetic, aesthetic, playful and at the same time rigorous ways.'
A publication featuring texts by Michael Birchall, Claire Craig, Elise Lammer, Fabian Schöneich and Esperanza Rosales accompanies the exhibition.
In a conversation with Nigel Dunkley, member of N/V Projects, we chatted about the idea behind the project?
Who and what is N/V_PROJECTS, and how did it start?
N/V is composed of two artists, Nigel Dunkley and Roman Liška. The project began as a collective of people, and was a relatively open platform. The original aim was to set up one-off shows to exhibit our own work. However in October 2011 a large space was made available to us where we were allowed usage for around a year, that’s where we began to experiment with a curatorial programme.
At the centre of your mission are collaborations with spaces and curators and a constant evolving format of exhibition. What excites you about collaborating?
From the perspective of an artist I think the insight into individual practices is really exciting. Whether it be a curatorial practice or that of an artist, it is always something new. I think particularly the fact that we have had a non-commercial approach thus far has allowed us to work in an interesting way without much compromise. For this reason we have been lucky enough to be around really fresh, new and exciting work.
What are the difficulties and advantages of having an open curatorial platform as N/V_PROJECTS?
I think the responses to both ends of this question are based around impermanence. The difficulties from not having a permanent space are mainly around being able to consistently offer a known venue to direct an audience of viewers. Now that we are hosting a nomadic programme it’s rare for us to have two consecutive exhibitions in the same venue. I think this can be confusing for people.
Although it is very interesting to establish new relationships with galleries and property owners, this is also something that requires a lot of invested time and energy that wouldn’t be necessary if we had the stability of a permanent gallery. The difficulties are really equal in weight, I suppose. The implications of owning or renting a space suitable for a gallery are quite complex. Having never aimed to sell work we are able to choose what we enjoy, and what we feel suits our programme. If we had the outgoing costs of a permanent space, whether we like it or not, we would have to cover costs. In order to do so our programme and overall agenda would have to change. In addition, should we wish to have a permanent venue, I think the excitement of site-specificity might change. At the moment each show is unique, and an opportunity to experiment.
LOT, your current exhibition at CUL DE SAC Gallery, is a survey in the form of an exhibition about the art making process. How did the artists in the exhibition respond to this?
Pedro Wirz’ modular sculptures, for instance, come as a kit and are to be assembled by individuals as they see fit, such as the curators or other artists involved in the show. Thus there is an open endlessness to the final manifestation of the object; this potential for it to be configured differently, means it will never be exhausted in its mutability.
Similarly, Max Ruf displays an installation photograph of his plain air paintings displayed on a hill side. The works are conceived as a process-oriented output, referring to the tradition of landscape painting. The artist stops to paint and carries on walking, as he carries his canvases these then reciprocally exchange marks from one surface to the other. This allows for an element of chance to seep into the already rather loose abstractions. The outcome is not necessarily a finished singular artwork, but a suggestive narrative of journey, process and experimentation to the point where the object itself is almost a prop, or a decoy to enable the process.
Jan Kiefer's installation is based on the respective dog's play blankets, which he re-appropriated to display his dog-treat bronze sculptures. The social interaction between the animal, their respective owners and the artist activates a sphere of speculative narration. This is manifested in the objects on display, but remains ephemeral in so far as it only exist in the viewers imagination, but never in plain sight. The visual outcome of the installation is hence partly dependent on the dog owners’ choice of accessories and the decisions here may well be based on other aesthetic reasons. Another layer of mystification is introduced with the story on display, which talks about a monument to a dog. So the collapse of a multi-layered construction into a decisive object produces a contradiction, which, is at the same time thoughtful and thought provoking.
Marianne Spurr's work is a primary example of object-based process, achieved through a concentrated interaction with the artist's decisions to manipulate mundane materials in a speculative manner, closer to play than labour. The element of chance is embraced in order to allow for a spontaneous feature of controlled accidents to happen, often resulting in a series of modest proposals which look effortlessly arrived at and more transient, rather than a directed, obviously hard-won and affirmative trophy.
The show seems to be creating connections into different forms of art practices, looking at reality with a formal but also very aesthetic approach. What in your view as curator of the exhibition, resonates as the main link between the artists?
As stated in the brief introduction to the exhibition, the common thread was to allow for the loosely connected process-oriented practices to be shown together. The artists are friends, or are at least acquainted with one another. Even if each individual approach results in objects of a quite varied nature they all share similar concerns in their practice, but had not had the opportunity to exhibit as a group before. The emphasis on a final outcome is questionable and has been for a long time, so it is nice to try and include the process of the objects conception into the exhibition, without turning it into an ephemeral exercise of negation.
Few of the artists in the exhibition had exhibited in the UK before. Do you feel the importance to showcase international artists previously un-known to UK audiences? How do you create a correct platform for it?
I’m not sure if the international aspect is of necessary importance, yet I think we find relevance in bringing refreshing, new work to London. This works for us as curators - to work with new people, also I think it is a nice opportunity for the artists to show in a metropolis such as London. Finally, and possibly most importantly, it offers the viewer something different. It seems like cities can create quite a homogenous scene that sometimes needs to be refreshed.
The publication includes contributions by other artist-curators, what is its role in the exhibition?
I think we felt with such a great group of artists, that this exhibition had a possibility to extend even further. We always enjoy working with and meeting new people as I previously mentioned, so this was a great opportunity to do so. Equally it offered the viewer a model in which they could have a literal insight into each artist’s practices. Also once again, with regards to our impermanence, it’s great to have something other than digital documentation that exists after the exhibition ends.
What are you planning next?
On the 10/01/13 we have an opening at The Dye House in Peckham – The show is titled ‘MAGNUM OPUS’, with a group of 10 artists. Thereafter is still unsure, but we tend to work show-to-show at the moment, and see where things take us.
LOT is on at the CUL DE SAC Gallery until the 22 December 2012
65-69 County Street
London SE1 4AD