Selected by Ryan Gander and Rebecca May Marston
Jacqueline Bebb / Karen Cunningham / Ben Dawson / Mike Goddard / Simon Newby / Matthew Richardson
A conversation between Sam Jeffery, Ryan Gander and Rebecca May Marston
Sam Jeffery: An obvious point on which to start would be your decision to change the regular monthly show format, on which the OUTPOST programme generally operates, to a quite different, six week, six show system. This provides a completely new dynamic to the Members Show. How did you arrive at this format/decision?
Rebecca May Marston: You asked us to select this show on the basis of our having organised Associates gallery, so we thought we'd parallel its format (of 12 month-long solo shows for young artists who'd benefit from the opportunity a solo show provides). We wanted to give 6 artists a solo show, to document each and show the images at the end for a big closing party. The format also energises the seasonal lull, we hope...
Ryan Gander: Yes, and group shows are about artists making works; solo shows are about artists making exhibitions; and retrospectives are about artists making a practice. The greater it gets the harder it gets. We thought it would be better to give 6 people something hard to do than 25 people something easy. It would be like turning it up a bit.
SJ: When considering aesthetic and conceptual aspects of the selected artists’ work there seem to be similarities that appear. On a formal level, most of the artists selected seem to display careful enquiries into the play-offs between material and placement, presenting their work and responding to the gallery in similar ways with a predominant sculptural output. Apart from being able to provide an opportunity for the artist is there something in particular that you look for in the work when selecting like this?
RMM: Hmmm... We could say all sorts of things: work we both felt was strong with interesting lines of enquiry evident; work that seemed to make a practice etc; but in the end I suppose it was work we liked the look of. The fact that we looked all the way through your 400(?) members and were ruthless wasn't the difficult bit - it was choosing artists from images alone, without talking to them about their works. That's tricky.
RG: There's a difference between things that mean things and things that look like they mean things. A lot of art you see around you is designed to look like interesting art, but art that is actually interesting seems more likely to happen by going about your life, roaming through culture and making stuff, unstrategically. I think for me the things I liked in the selection process you could tell were really idiosyncratic and would have been happening whether there was a show or publication for them to be sited in or not. There are undoubtedly communal aesthetics shared between the shows, maybe these become movements or schools over time, that’s the way art history works, no? I also like the fact that this collective consciousness exists between a group of people that haven't ever met each other. I have an image in my mind of people in different parts of the country all nodding and smiling to themselves, when they see each others' work.
SJ: As this show has proven, artists in London are making similar work to those based in Glasgow or Birmingham. We have come to a point where languages and movements are becoming global. Do you feel that this ‘collective consciousness’ that you speak of is due to, or has been enhanced by, the relatively recent phenomenon and proliferation of the internet and its ability to provide immediate national and international transmission of artist and gallery activity?
RMM: Nope. Artists have always done similar things at similar times - sneak peeks at many art historical movements or periods demonstrates that. Artists have always looked at other artists' works and talked to other artists - I think, I don't know though, I'm not one. Ryan...?
RG: No, I think you're right, I wouldn't say it's the internet, there are always routes. When I lived in Manchester I got to see hardly any shows, I was brought up on looking at documentation of works... My art appreciation was learned through books and art magazines. Maybe that's why I'm not that interested in how work looks now, only what it means, because a caption can say more than the image. But all this is associative... as an artist you think... that's cool or they're cool, I like that, I get that, because that's like what I'm thinking about... that’s how things look similar, a shared wealth or reference point. We all do it, the thing is though if you’re to do something properly innovative, something that really pushes it forwards, you have to model yourself, not on the things you like, but the things don't yet know. That’s the really hard bit I think, because it’s so hard to recognise and it makes you feel like you are a bit mad.
SJ: It is interesting what you say about working toward what hasn’t been made yet, as if one should be working and thinking in the future. With the range of artist selected for this show being relatively young, career wise, do you think that these sorts of shows are responsible for consolidating a thought or feeling about what the future of art is, or could be?
RMM: Not really... there are so many shows and application based shows for young artists, like Bloomberg New Contemporaries etc, and I don't think they can be credited with consolidating the future of art. I believe in big breaks, pivotal moments in careers and single-handed 'geniuses' who nudge histories this way and that, which are then followed by collective consciousnesses. But that's probably a little too romantic.
RG: The thing about contemporary art is, nothing exists in isolation.