Naomi Gilby | Pleasure | September 2018

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Memories are ramshackle affairs. Built on the shaky foundations of half remembered events that become less clear the further away from them that we get, they are battered by the intemperate winds of our psyche with negative and positive events shaping our memory of how things actually happened. In this respect the present shapes the past. We cannot change the past, that ship has already sailed, but it is possible that we influence our memories by how we approach the future. 

In 2017 the exhibition ‘Now We Have Met’ by Naomi Gilby looked at the historical timeline of an object used in performance works, in this case an old duvet, and created a museological display based on it’s life as a Live Art prop. In 2018 Gilby returned to BasementArtsProject with a second exhibition entitled ‘Pleasure’ taking on a different aspect of looking back at life experiences. Whilst her earlier exhibition exposed much about her recent life as an artist, utilising performance as part of her practice, “Pleasure’ goes further; this exhibition delves back into Gilby’s memories of growing up in the northern coastal town of Blackpool. 

‘Pleasure’ is a strange mixture of minimal and maximalist techniques. Upon entering the darkness of BasementArtsProject’s rear exhibition space, one encounters two spot lit photographs  of reasonable proportions and a single floor based sculpture. Visually the display is sparse but effective. Walking further into the space you become aware of two other artworks in the room that  you have probably already noticed but not yet registered: the smell of candy floss along with the sounds of a tram bell and muffled conversation. The room has a strange stop / start motion effect going on in it as the tram rings its bell, whirs into into life and moves off, conversations spring to life until it comes to a halt again a little while later. This cycle continues ad infinitum . . . As with the voluminous effect of sound and it’s ability be ever-present and filling every corner of a space, so to are the olfactory senses assailed by the overwhelmingly sweet smell of candy floss.

The audio soundtrack is split into two channels: left and right. The right channel, depicting a tram ride is occasionally cut across by sounds from the left channel emanating from the brighter front half of the exhibition space. Occasional windfalls of change from arcade slot machines and bursts from the sixties theme tune to the Twilight Zone draw our attention into the other part of the exhibition. There is a point on the threshold of the door between exhibition spaces where sounds and smells mingle and it feels like stepping from the outside to inside. As the sounds of the tram and the smell of candy floss recede they are replaced by the fruit machines and the smell of fish and chips. Alongside all of this, an archival documentary about Blackpool from the late 1960’s breaks in describing the area and giving a bit of the towns history.  The interruption of The Twilight Zone every now and then seems quite appropriate, when considered alongside the photographic images displayed on the crumbling plaster walls of the Basement. The television series that often depicted a post-apocalyptic future, devoid of people, feels like the world of Gilby’s photographs. A once bustling society suddenly emptied of humanity, left hanging with the evidence of recent habitation.

A newspaper produced by Gilby is left in a pile for visitors to take. The publication takes us on a further exploration of the streets of out-of-season Blackpool. Elsewhere in the room is a large stack of fish and chip paper infused with the scent of the product that it would normally contain. The overall feeling throughout the exhibition is a ghostly one, the sights, the sounds, the smells; displaced, things present whilst simultaneously absent. 

Pleasure takes further another concept that has been on Gilby’s for some time, the subject of her recent MA dissertation, that of accessibility in the art world. Like much of the independent art world, BasementArtsProject has it’s issues with regards to access, issues that may or may not be able to be sorted out in the future. The fact that our main exhibitions can only be accessed physically by a narrow staircase with no hand rail means that we have no wheelchair access. Due to technology and a 42” screen in the living room the exhibition can be viewed by a video link when necessary, a poor substitute for an exhibition like Pleasure. And this is where Gilby’s exhibition comes into it’s own; by occupying a sense not often associated with visual art. For Pleasure the exhibition is a complete sensory experience with it’s sounds, smells, visuals and environment working as one to complete the picture. Even on the opening night for this exhibition alongside the wine, tea, coffee and bhaji’s / flatbreads available at every BasementArtsProject preview was a selection of Blackpool Rock, effectively incorporating the sense of touch and taste. Whilst the subject of physical access is important and should always be strived for, we must always acknowledge other limitations and strive to incorporate them into what we do, not just in the arts but as a society in general. With Pleasure Gilby put together an artwork that could be experienced and accessed in many ways. 

Despite our lack of physical access for wheelchair users BasementArtsProject does take into consideration an aspect of access that is not often addressed; that of working class access to the arts. Many of the inhabitants of South Leeds believe that the city is for shopping and therefore do not access the art that it has to offer. By placing art at the heart of the South Leeds community BasementArtsProject has over the years encouraged a sizeable part of the audience that does not access the art of the city to engage  with it’s programme. Having replaced the pristine walls of the gallery environment with the surroundings of a family home, complete with family life, we have created a different kind of context for engagement with the arts. Hopefully the first step in a bigger world.   

Finally  as part of this exhibition Naomi Gilby and BasementArtsProject have teamed up with MAP Charity (Music and Art Production) to work on a remix project for the audio work that is part of the exhibition. MAP Charity are an alternative creative education provider who work with young people that struggle in mainstream education. Having been based on Mabgate for the last decade MAP Charity now find themselves in the position of having to purchase their building in order to remain. For this Gilby has engaged a number of young people involved in the music production / art department in a project that will see the creation of a number of remixes of her audio work. The remixes will be pressed into a one-off vinyl for the MAP archives and MP3 downloads made available of each track. The money raised through the sale of the downloads will hopefully provide income towards their fundraising. Supported by Leeds Inspired

To find out more about MAP Charity’s fundraising or how to make donations visit   

BasementArtsProject will be organising a listening party to launch the release of the downloads. We will keep you informed on the progress of this project over the coming weeks.

The work of Naomi Gilby reveals and amplifies details of a highly personal nature about the artist. It is work that reflects life experiences as an artist and as an individual. Her work is not just confined to the self but also reveals something of how we experience and interact with the world around us.

In her 2017 exhibition for BasementArtsProject entitled Now We Have Met, Gilby pulled the focus in on the life of objects associated with her work as a performance artist in Leeds. For her 2018 exhibition Pleasure she returns to the place in which she grew up, presenting a selection of images and sculptural works that suggest the sights, sounds and smells of her home town of Blackpool. As with past works the exhibition will present Gilby’s ideas and experiences from a singular point of view but will be instantly recognisable to anyone that has grown up in a seaside town.     

Friday 7th September | 7.30pm – 9.30pm

Exhibition Open
Saturday 8th September | 2pm – 4pm
Sunday 9th September | 2pm – 4pm
Monday 10th September | 11am – 2pm
Saturday 15th September | 2pm – 4pm
Sunday 16th September | 2pm – 4pm
Monday 17th September | 11am – 2pm

Exhibition Remains Open By Appointment until
Monday 8th October

Studio Journal entry Naomi Gilby | Pleasure | 05.02.18

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