Visitations 2: (camping) site

09 Jul 2010

Camp site event sign


Part of my reason for being in Basel last month (see last post on the fair’s Art Public series), was for the launch of this year’s Cahier d’Artistes, an annual series of eight artist monographs commissioned/supported by Pro Helvetia, the Swiss arts council. I was asked to write a short story based on the paintings of Zurich-based, Birmingham-born artist, Clare Goodwin.

Last year, it was easy to miss the monographs amongst the Swiss Art Awards held in the Messe Hall opposite Art Basel. This year, however, Sandi Paucic and Andreas Vogel, of the F+F Schule für Kunst und Mediendesign, devised a situation within which to introduce the books and the artists, commissioning them to customise some variably retro models of caravan. This site for action, and the display/interaction issues it brought about, made me think of Plastique Fantastique’s (PF) ‘Visitation’ site and its accompanying ’zine at Tatton.

Firstly, there was the wonderful incongruity of the objects within each context: the Cahier artists' clunky vehicles for outdoor recreation hunkered down within an industrial Basel interior and PF's outlandish armature for sci-fi rituals installed in the pastoral haven of Tatton's formal gardens. While the Cahier project with its doctored readymades situated the viewer between the gallery, the showroom and the campsite, so PF's custom-built props, made one think of abstract sculptural meditations on space, the gaudy functionality of playgrounds, old-world punishment sites and the cultish rules of engagement that connect all three.

For, in Basel, the caravans could not be described as artworks, as such, but neither were they simply retro containers for display. While each essentially offered a place to read the books and watch artist videos, the maker's hand/presence was always evident. Vanessa Billy had a masseuse operating at certain times of day out of hers, Fabian Marti displayed “the best shoes he could find” having used the money allocated for a pilgrimage to Crockett and Jones in London, while Goodwin chose to host a leisure-focused Art + Argument debate.

PF's 'Visitiation', while very much an artwork, encourages one to question the relationshipbetween object and site and notions of performativity: what in the way of human intervention, if any, is required to make the site 'active'. In both cases, the idea of scheduled or unscheduled events occurring created moments where one couldn't be entirely sure of what it was they were being asked to view.

Each situation reminded that however much curatorial planning goes into a venture a certain amount of randomness will prevail, especially when set-up within a pre-existing visitor context such as the Swiss Art Awards and a National Trust site. Will the visitor pick up (in every sense) PF's satirical supporting literature before they reach the site, will the art fair visitor feel comfortable enough to enter this uncharacteristically cosy community, enough to make sense of correlation between the project and the wider event context?

At one point I'm in a caravan, on the internet, when a man comes up looking utterly bewildered, well and truly out of his personal viewing-experience comfort zone, to ask me what is going on. And as I direct him towards a German-speaker who knows I think that if it wasn't for becoming so lost on this itinerant journey through data, he might never have asked the question..

A woman inside a caravan

Two people sitting down outside there caravan

Posted by Rebecca Geldard at 7:23 AM