If contemporary art’s role is to question and cajole, provoke and inspire, then what, as our
cultural footprint becomes evermore digitised, should its response be? For Glasgow International
Festival of Visual Art (GI), the answer is unambiguous and refreshing – focus on the physical
and the immediate. In short, keep it real.
‘Many of the exhibitions and projects [in this year’s Glasgow International] offer direct and very immediate encounters,’ explains GI director Katrina Brown in her curatorial statement. ‘They are the opposite of remote. Our focus is more on the real, the physical and the very tangible, rather than the digital or virtual, with an emphasis on the live experience.’
This performative aspect can be seen at many levels throughout the festival, from LA-based artist Kelly Nipper’s ‘carving of space’ with dance, to the promenade performance, The Making of Us, by Graham Fagen, Graham Eatough and Michael McDonough.
Both of these performances-cum-installations are at art/theatre space Tramway, and all of Glasgow’s key art venues are presenting work as part of GI, from the Gallery of Modern Art (Karla Black) to the Centre for Contemporary Arts (Rob Kennedy), The Modern Institute (Paul Thek) to artist-run gallery Transmission (six unnamed artists).
But it’s a show in a little known venue not normally associated with contemporary art
that perhaps best embodies Brown’s curatorial mission statement.
Dialogue of Hands is an outdoor sculpture exhibition at the East Gymnasium, City of Glasgow College, near George Square in the city centre. Curated by Glasgow-based writer and academic Sarah Lowndes, it features the work of Axis artist Corin Sworn, along with Chris Johanson, Mary Redmond and Camilla Løw.
“The title of the show is inspired by the Brazilian artists Hélio Oiticica and Lygia Clark,” explains Lowndes. “They were known for participatory work, and the key thing with Dialogue of Hands is that you can touch and play with the sculptures, all of which have been created specially for the show with this in mind.”
Lowndes sees Dialogue of Hands as an exhibition for children as well as adults, and she is keen to engage with as diverse an audience as possible. This openness and desire to think outside the white box seems indicative of the wider curatorial approach of the festival.
The very public nature, for example, of Jeremy Deller’s Sacrilege – it takes place on Glasgow Green, the city’s oldest and most central public park – further emphasises the sense of contemporary art as something that is rooted in human experience and very much part of, rather than separate to, society.
Brown’s curatorial statement also talks of ‘the very tangible sense of the time and labour’ in the work of another Turner Prize winner featured in this year’s festival, Richard Wright. Best known for his meticulous, beautifully crafted and always temporary wall pieces, for GI the Glasgow artist is exhibiting a large selection of his works on paper at Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum, the most visited attraction in Scotland.
Without shouting too loudly about it, the pairing encapsulates the international, local and public nature of GI. It is, as the festival’s director would have it, an art event that is ‘the opposite of remote’.
Chris Sharratt writes about artists and Glasgow International
Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art runs from 20 April - 7 May 2012 in venues across Glasgow
See what's on and find out visiting information on GI's website at www.glasgowinternational.org