Raft of the Medusa (Pt 1) – B.S.

Is Working Title a ‘Big Society’ happening? No, honestly, I’m asking (yeah, okay, provocatively). The ambition of Cameron-Clegg’s B.S. is ‘to put more power and opportunity into people’s hands’. Isn’t that what Working Title aims to do  – to allow its audience the chance to participate alongside so-called professionals in shaping a beneficial experience. Everyone has an opportunity to participate, to influence outcomes, to ‘do better’. Artists and audience are on an equal footing, they start with a mess (of bric-à-brac) and some resolve – to make sense and use of stuff. Now, I’m going to hack the Governments own document, Building the Big Society (hack it like a Texan Chainsaw Massacre):

We want to give [artists and audience] the power and information they need to come together, solve the problems they face and build [what] they want. We want [Art] –  that form[s] the fabric of so much of our everyday lives – to be bigger and stronger than ever before. Only when [artists and audience] are given more power and take more responsibility can we achieve fairness and opportunity for all [in the gallery]

Do you see? Working Title is handing over greater responsibility to its audience, they get to facilitate what gets made, they can enter into discourse with service providers (I mean, really, isn’t that what today’s artists are meant to be), and they can take practical steps, make the art they want to see. All very B.S. to me.

But.

Working Title isn’t a foisting of aspex‘s responsibilities as a gallery on to the shoulders of its audience. It’s the role of the aspex team to articulate the space, the variant approaches, to contextualize (excuse me, I do love to drop a ‘contextualism’) and to facilitate participation. WT isn’t a case of sink or swim (though, at first, it can seem pretty ‘not waving but drowning’). We’re all in this together. If you feel excluded, well, you’ve obviously not attempted to glue a moustache of feathers on to the upper lip of a broken badminton racquet, or given a pie tin twenty-seven Spork legs and a hunchback of pillowy satin. If you feel excluded, you’ve not explored the library of this, all the books that inform on those artist in the WT show and the many who’d like to be in WT (blistering with images and thoughtfulness). Aw, shucks, you can’t visit and feel excluded – we’ve even got an Animateur, Jo Willoughby, on Tues/Thurs, to bring the whole kit kaboodle to life for you.

What the artists get to begin with, the audience gets too. So, on day one, what everyone had to look at, to contemplate, was the compartment of bric-à-brac. We’re almost three weeks in, we’ve had five artists feed on our plate of leftovers (some feeding on the leftovers of other’s leftovers). Successful amalgams now exist, free of their maker, about the building. There’s Will Cruickshank’s ever-spinning parasol suspended above the café, his ‘Profile-Drawing Contraption’ situated (for now) in the workshop space. There are sketches of ideas as actual objects by Kate Parrot (an effective small-scale work hinged to the gallery wall, just inside the workshop area, will sustain itself, I believe – so, becoming an artwork). There’s still evidence of Paul Matosic’s object-scapes, eroded by the hunger of the other artist’s instincts (an Atlantis disappearing). Andy Parker’s succulent interventionist drawings are giving way to, what seems to be, a raft on which he can either escape or negotiate the clutter (a real Raft of the Medusa, made of cannibalized materials by a cannibal of stuff). All this is there, some made (kind-of) distinct of the debris of makings, the rest embroiled in the scraps they’ve been birthed from. Stuff has already shifted through the play of a number of the artists – we’re planning to track elements, document their adventures. What the audience gets to see, now, is the sex, the pregnancy, the birth and lifespan of idea-objects – all the action tucked away out-of-sight during ‘Open Studios’, the what if I stick this into that phase, the outtakes. What the artists get is an audience with question rather than expectations…

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