Les Bicknell


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A whistle stop tour of Les’ thoughts on context in terms of exhibiting work - 49 quick fire slides that got straight to the point but served to trigger more thoughts on my behalf. Some of it so blatantly obvious it shouldn’t need stating, but now it has been stated how does it change what I thought about it? A bit like when Neo broke the vase when he saw the Oracle... Sort of.

What follows are bullet points because that’s all I really got chance to make...

Slide 2: How is the work experienced? > think about rooms, about the journey to the room. How is the work informed by them? Does the room change the way the work is received?

3: Where is the work experienced? Is there some form of informal social contract? Do national stereotypes take hold? The behaviour of the location (do not cross the line... talk in hushed tones...)

4: Context frames understanding - work may be received differently in a white cube gallery than if displayed in the open, etc.

5: Items take on different meaning depending on use; fishing nets or cricket nets for example.

6: Towels can be used for drying and as markers for ownership...

7: Mats on sale in a store are different to one behind a door - the context changes what we expect of it.

8: Packaging keeps its contents neat until they are discarded when empty and become rubbish.

9: Christo and Jean-Claude used nylon sheeting to create art in Running Fence, a 24.5 mile long installation, similar sheeting is used in the building trade to surround building sites/scaffold. Intent changes the material, even though it is the same...

10: An Issey Miyake installation with the same material on manikins (clothing) and on the floor... Changes in purpose causes confusion.

11: Whilst context frames the reader, it also frames the makers understanding of the work.

12: Modern life is very much mediated through the screen - the MA course happens through one for a start. How is the work to be viewed without a screen? Something to be aware of.

13-16: A series of slides of fishing nets; bundled, stretched out, in glass cabinets, in an anthropological scene. All coming from an exhibition by Susan Vogel - the same object viewed and interpreted in different ways because of the manner it was displayed. Context is everything...

17: Museums - they collect things for the future, preserving and cataloguing from antiquity.

18: Libraries - a place for knowledge and learning. They’re going through their own change at the moment (books on paper to books on PC). An outdated idea based on trust? People come back every few weeks = audience.

19: Galleries - have their rituals, a slow and hushed walk around, reading of labels and statements...

20: Hanging work - not from the wall, but in space - not suited to all work, obviously, but more possibilities can arise and helps give a sense of temporality or flight.

21: The floor - Is work more “honest” if it’s displayed on the floor? It’s no longer on a pedestal so is there less preciousness to it? Can you walk on it? (I thought about printing on flooring tiles some time ago for
Speak My Language)

22: The wall - This is the obvious choice for 2D art, but where about on the wall - hanging lower than expected can cause discomfort and can be appropriate (as with Pete’s work from [( 6 )] - he is a wheelchair user, but the gallery moved it back up after we’d hung it and left). A piece of Lawrence Weiner’s art was to remove the plaster and show the wall beneath...

23: The plinth - elevate things physically and conceptually, makes things appear important.

24: The spotlight - used to direct focus, what is valued in terms of worth looking at. It also plays with light and dark. (Kohei Yoshiyuki’s
The Park was displayed in pitch darkness, with the audience being given small torches when they entered)

25: The vitrine - the glass case can change viewers thoughts, from art to museology. They provide protection and block access. What are the politics of protection?

26: Other glass boxes give different ideas - the style of the vitrine can affect the impact... (Wattage Yukichi’s
A Criminal Investigation was displayed in glass topped cases at Le Bal, it made you look down, as if searching for clues)

27: The table - provides a domestic vibe, it’s familiar and accessible...

28: The shelf - is not a table (clearly). They provide a more private viewing experience than something on an open table. It’s not far removed from staring at the wall.

29: Online - There is a connectedness to the work, and can allow direct feedback (blogs/comments, etc). it’s available 24/7, but only to those who have Internet access, and also know where to find it...

30: The home - open house, domestic by nature, small gatherings.

31: Other systems - includes parish notice boards, fetes, car boot sales, even camp sites... (I’m actually working with community notice boards for TYB, putting photographs on them around the region)

32: National Trust land - Orford Ness in Sussex was a military site now open to the public. Work displayed in areas previously used for other means can give it an air of something else - Orford Ness has links to atomic warfare, but is now a bird sanctuary...

33: The artist book - understood in its basic form, but can be so much more... It’s also portable, intimate and democratic (until they become filthy expensive collectors items).

34: Live transmission - changing practices... outside broadcast, etc.

35: Video/DVD - the packaging for digital work becomes part of the art? Also memory sticks and similar.

36: Monitors - the type of monitor might be important, and if so it will anchor the display in time/history.

37: Digital projection - where is the work? Is it on the screen? Or the projector? Or does it lie somewhere between the two, and is subject to interventions from outside influences?

38: New media - smart phones, tablets, VR headsets... can be live streamed, accessed via the web or available any time.

39: Photographs - are photographs the work, or are they of the work?

40 & 41: Documentation - photographs of the art, even video. Or other evidence, such as what remains of Christo’s fence mentioned earlier... Momentary events, performances, etc. recorded as documentation.

42: Process - can process be the work? The act of colouring, elements of scale (smaller and larger - Alice in Wonderland effect). Ideas of childhood - will this then include the slides at the Tate?

43: Performance - something that’s transient and gone at the end (unless documented somehow). Anything can happen...

44: installation - Beuys, the meaning of place. Installations where everything is relevant, from the lights to the floor to whatever else is there...

45 & 46: Interventions - where something is added to a situation, be it graffiti or whatever. Layering is another angle. Doing something as a performance (artist biting her nails...) during an intermission or similar.

47: Site specific - work that would be the work if it were somewhere else...

48: Relational art - Nicholas Bourriard was mentioned (pdf downloaded, need to read it)

49: Mel Chin’s interventions in Melrose Place, the American soap. Hidden messages and the like - “Free Tibet” written in Chinese on the takeaway boxes, AIDS drug gene coding on a quilt...


After that, there were audience relationships to consider. How the maker, the work and the audience (and other factors) interact, from simple relationships such as the maker makes the work and the audience sees the work, to interactions, feedbacks and other things altogether more complex. This is how I envisage my interactions with my audience with the TYB exhibition: