Naomi Gilby | Now We Have Met | June 2017
‘Whoever is hatching us
is hatching our pencils as well.
Set free from the egg one day
at once we shall make an image
of whoever is hatching us.’
Now We Have Met is an exhibition that takes past performance artworks by the artist Naomi Gilby as its starting point, presents a historical point of view on the nature of objects and performance in art, and then leaves us in a place of contemplation and speculation . . . #NowWeHaveMet.
Over the years BasementArtsProject has seen much performance art as part of its programme, some conventional, some less so. On each occasion the subject of documentation arises and how far you can go before people may perceive documentation as an artwork in its own right. Questions surrounding this vary from what the artist’s intended purpose or destination is for the material, to how audiences may interpret documentary material. As you would expect the responses to these ideas are varied and numerous, and the outcomes are often wildly different. Now We Have Met is, strictly speaking, not entirely about performance but about closure and treating a body of work, which just happens to be performance based, as a point of departure. At BasementArtsProject the Front Exhibition Space is filled with artefacts that denote previous happenings; documentary evidence of a performance in the form of a book, a large studio based photographic print of a stained and tired looking duvet, and, hung between wall and ceiling, the actual duvet in a further state of deterioration.
The book looks at an early performance piece on the subject of safe spaces, a literal security blanket in the form of a duvet. The duvet is no longer just a bed cover but in performance, wrapped around the artist, it becomes a metaphor for protection, a layer of comfort against a cold and probing world. As time and performance has moved on the appropriated bed covering has gathered an accretion of stains and marks from both personal and public use, cigarette burns, wine, food and so on . . . The duvet has gained a very specific and unusual history, filled with stories it is a testament to many encounters all very different in nature. Central on the chimney breast in the Front Exhibition space is a large photographic portrait of the duvet, bedraggled and hung as an art object against the white backdrop of the studio wall. To the right of the photograph is a key to the stains, effectively a map of the duvet. To the left of both of these objects, hung between wall and ceiling, is the duvet itself; the physical manifestation of the documented object. In its current abject state the duvet is quite literally falling apart, the stuffing falling out of great gaping holes in the outer layer of material. Since the studio photograph was taken, the duvet has been subject to yet more performances in which the audience are asked to cut away the marks and stains, leading the duvet to the state in which we now find it; a place which Gilby insists will be this works final resting place. As this longstanding piece of work comes to an end and the object is retired there is a sense of release, a cathartic act that results in a sense of new found freedom, the ability to slough off the old skin and start anew.
In the darkness of the Rear Exhibition Space a noticeboard, placed in an alcove, is filled with poems, all in different handwriting, on scraps of paper, pages from notebooks, doodles in the margins yet all by the same person. The poems written by Gilby are all penned for people she has met, but they have never been shown before . . . until now. One of the accompanying doodles appears to echo the design of the lighting constructed by Gilby herself that currently illuminates the majority of the exhibition in both spaces. The lights are bare bulbs enclosed in copper wire squiggles, three dimensional doodles that become interrogational as they burn patterns on the retina as you try to view the work, simultaneously creating great shadowy pools. Beneath the noticeboard of poems, placed on a barstool is a bought wire fruit bowl, again echoing the design of the lighting and the doodling; in the bowl are a number of badges all bearing the legend ‘Now We Have Met’ attached to cards with links to social media sites. It is the badges and the social media pages that provide the raison d’etre for this exhibition. Whilst we are able to consider much about what has gone before as it relates to the objects and the poems, Now We Have Met is an exhibition that is also able to address the future. It is no coincidence that the Front Exhibition Space is laid out in such a way as a person could perform before an audience, but in actual fact the performance is, in this case reversed; here there is no conventional performance – artist to audience – but unwittingly the audience perform for the artist, talking, discussing, meeting old friends, making new ones, taking the space provided and making it their own. By the time one leaves the exhibition space the feeling is that now, we really have met. In this way the practice of Gilby strikes a chord with the very ethos of BasementArtsProject; a place in which people can meet, look at and discuss art, and whatever else they want to, whilst feeling comfortable enough to do so.
‘And what if we’re not being hatched?
If this shell will never break?
If our horizon is only that
of our scribbles, and always will be?
We hope that we’re being hatched.’
*Gunter Grass: In the Egg
Bruce Davies | July 2017
Photographs courtesy Evelyn Davies
‘Now We Have Met’ is a project by Naomi Gilby that takes as its central premise a plethora of anonymous handwritten poetry, collected over many years and only ever read by the artist; until now. This project is about interactions and connections both physical and virtual, the difference between place and space, and how people connect over subject matter.
Through installation, sound and performance ‘Now We Have Met’ will use the intimate domestic environment of BasementArtsProject as a space for reflection and communion; a place in which old memories can be recalled and new ones created. Gilby’s practice is one of social engagement that encourages the building of relationships between people and place through the lens of her artwork.
Friday 16th June | 7.30pm – 9.30pm
Saturday 17th June | 2pm – 4pm
Sunday 18th June | 2pm – 4pm
Monday 19th June | 11am – 2pm
Saturday 24th June | 2pm – 4pm
Sunday 25th June | 2pm – 4pm
Monday 26th June | 11am – 2pm
Exhibition remains Open By Appointment until
Monday 17th July
Lunchtime Conversations: Naomi Gilby
Thursday 29th June 12.30pm – 2.30pm
Places are limited and booking for this event is essential.
Contact Bruce Davies at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 0750 672 1504