My last article on this blog was published about two months ago. This just so happened to be my first post of art criticism and was addressed to a specific gallery in Amsterdam, the W319 (Here’s the link).
Since then I hoped my next piece would describe an exhibition not only beautiful, but deeply moving. Just for the sake of rebalancing cosmic energies, you know.
I was looking for a remarkable, surprising, innovative – almost perfect exhibition. Well, after two months of research … I didn’t quite yet find it.
But what I did discover was an art show that was perhaps not perfect, but in its own way, approached a kind of perfection. The gallery hosting the exhibition happened to be the infamous W139, target of my previous criticism – highlighting the fact that that I am often changing my mind.
The title of the exhibition in itself is very interesting: XII, 12.
Twelve reflects the number of hours of which the exhibition was open – from noon to midnight. This specific temporal decision highlights the unique fleeting nature of the exhibition. All the artistic pieces on display were works in progress – beginning their formation precisely at noon and ending when the clock struck midnight, like Cinderella.
The gallery itself became a living space, a creative lab which was not limited to a display of a sterile exhibition, but transformed into a place of experimentation and progression over time. Each artist had their own clipping of autonomous space, but at the same time all the works communicated with one another, forming an interweaving of media, ideas, actions and colors.
Taking inspiration from Horace’s Carpe Diem , the artists inspired fresh ideas that alined perfectly with the nature of the event. Each work reflected its own peculiarity but also reflected the overall idea of temporality, to which the whole exhibition was present, active and progressive over the course of a limited period of time.
One of the pieces exhibited a never-ending spark hung from a high ceiling. The small firework continued burning through a pulley system which unrolled the fuse gradually. This artistic creation, ephemeral as a flash of light, left it’s mark through the progression of the black spark remnant that cultivated on a panel on the floor.
Another piece paid homage to the feminist artistic movement through a performance of a woman with whips who painted the space with subtle traces of the black whip against the surfaces. The loud, aggressive noise of the whips filled the room, yet the visual impact of these actions was gradual and faint in nature.
Another performance artist exhibited a long blank paper along the floor of the hall. She walked along it dripping ink from a sponge in her hand, allowing the let the drops to fall sequentially on the paper becoming the notes for a new melody. Halfway between the Bruce Nauman’s “Walking in a Exaggerated Manner Around the Perimeter of a Square” and a composition by John Cage.
On a chair in the middle of the art space sat an artist who began knitting wool over her head and down her body. Over the course of the exhibition I presume she became covered from head to toe.
In another room an artist exhibited a treadmill of sandpaper that he used it to grind a number of wooden chairs that sat on top. This created a surplus of, as suggested by the title, “Quick Sand”.
Each work represented its own means of change over the course of time through a minimal action, which, if repeated, caused a gradual consequence. Viewers could watch the development of an idea that came to life in front of them, with a slow but persistent rhythm, every work became the product of a dynamic and mysterious path which not even the artist was fully aware of. The art pieces were fresh and simple but intense, proving that even with an almost insubstantial budget you can create something meaningful.
The exhibition thus becomes a metaphor for life, for the ephemeral surrounding us and that we are composed of. The moment these art forms are born they begin to die. The moment they start breathing, finding their place in the world, they are also slowly decaying.
Despite the quality of the ideas, what really impressed me was the atmosphere – so lively and spontaneous. It reminded me of one of those important occasions, framed by the busy hum of laughs, family, photos and friends.
This exhibition was successful not only because of the works presented, but also the factors that led to a harmony of composition: the basic idea has been followed from the beginning to the end; all the art works, despite their differences, built a rich and unexpected balance; the environment itself was sparkling and innovative.
The only off-key note that I found was the lack in-depth descriptions of the works. It’s true that the works proposed were quite easy to understand, but there were moments that I stood by certain pieces trying to fully grasp their meanings and desired some kind of explanation.
I guess that perfection does not exist.
What does exist is the adjective “perfect”, a precious decoration for something pure, balanced and accurate. Something which in its simplicity manages to surprise, to snatch a smile, to make us think.